Courtesy Linden Police Department
September 20, 2016 07:05 PM

It seemed like a routine call for Angel Padilla: The Linden, New Jersey, police officer was dispatched Monday on a report of a man sleeping in the doorway of a bar.

Padilla, a 15-year veteran of the force, “thought he was checking on a homeless vagrant,” Linden police spokesman Capt. James Sarnicki tells PEOPLE. In reality, Sarnicki says, “It turned out to be one of America’s most wanted.”

Authorities say the sleeping man that day was Ahmad Khan Rahami, the 28-year-old suspect in three recent bombings in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood and two locations in New Jersey.

According to Sarnicki, Padilla identified Rahami after he roused him and saw his face. When Padilla then told Rahami to put his hands up, Rahami allegedly drew a handgun and fired a shot that struck Padilla in the mid-section, though he was wearing a bulletproof vest, Sarnicki says.

“Thank God for that,” Sarnicki says.

Officials say two officers and Rahami were hit in the ensuing shoot-out – and Rahami, who was struck three times, was arrested.

He was later charged with five counts of attempted murder of law enforcement officials, second-degree unlawful possession of a weapon and second-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, according to multiple reports. He will likely face terrorism charges in the coming days in connection with the bombings, NBC News reports.

Rahami has not entered a plea to the charges or retained an attorney. Authorities say they are still investigating a possible motive.

Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Click here to get breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases in the True Crime Newsletter.

Ahmad Khan Rahami

In addition to Padilla, fellow Linden officer Peter Hammer responded to the call Monday in his police vehicle, according to authorities. When Rahami allegedly started shooting, two rounds went into Hammer’s vehicle, one of which grazed his head.

Hammer and Padilla were both treated and released from the hospital and both are at home, Sarnciki says, adding they will need medical clearance before returning to work. reports a third officer, Mark Kahana, who has been on the force since 1997, responded to the scene and received medical assistance for increased blood pressure.

Sarnicki says the officers’ quick response owed to their preparedness.

“We constantly train and remind our officers to be aware of anything suspicious and just basically approach every call with caution,” he tells PEOPLE.

Rahami’s suspected bombings began Saturday. That night, 29 people were injured after a bomb exploded inside a dumpster in Chelsea, all of whom have since been released from the hospital, according to authorities. Earlier that day, police responded to an explosion before a charity race in Seaside Park, New Jersey, in which no one was injured.

Then, on Sunday night, a bag containing five pipe bombs was found at a train station in Elizabeth, New Jersey. One device was detonated by a bomb disposal robot Monday morning, a federal official previously told PEOPLE. No one was injured.

The man who called police to the scene, bar owner Harry Bains, said he initially thought the bearded man asleep for hours on the doorstep of his bar was passed out and drunk, he told NBC New York.

Acting Linden Police Chief Jonathan Parham described the shootout to as “surreal.”

He told the outlet, “I’m just extremely proud of these officers and proud of the way the department worked together. We caught a terrorist. That’s no small feat.”

You May Like