Just as he was wrapping up his first full day on the job, New York Police Commissioner James O’Neill faced his first real test.
On his way home, he received a phone call about an explosion in the Manhattan neighborhood of Chelsea Saturday night, and immediately rushed to the scene.
“There was a dumpster – went from one side of the street to the other. The force of the blast was tremendous. I think we were very lucky that only 29 people received not serious injuries,” O’Neill told “CBS This Morning” Tuesday.
Within 35 hours, the NYPD and FBI had identified the suspect, and within 50 hours, 28-year-oldwas in .
Even before he was formally sworn in as the new top cop of the nation’s largest police force Monday, O’Neill said the message was clear: if “you’re going to do something bad” in New York City, “you’re going to pay the price and you’re going to face justice.”
Rahami was wounded – as were two officers – in a shootout with police in Linden, New Jersey, and was taken to a hospital, where O’Neill said his condition is “critical but stable.”
The police commissioner also stressed that this is “just the start” of the investigation.
“We’re going to look at friends, family, go through all of his records, his social media, his phones and we’ll see if he acted alone,” O’Neill said.
Authorities are still trying to unravel Rahami’s motive for the bombs he planted in New York and New Jersey over the weekend, and many questions remain – including whether he acted with or was inspired by a terror group.
“We’ll get to the bottom of this investigation and try to figure out if he did act alone,” O’Neill said, adding that he thinks it’s a good sign Rahami was discovered sleeping in the doorway of a New Jersey bar. “Hopefully that means that he had nowhere to go,” he explained.
In the wake of the bombings, the NYPD has beefed up security, especially as world leaders convene for thethis week in New York City. But O’Neill expressed confidence in the department’s protective measures, including its highly trained personnel, the level of security, as well as its back-and-forth communication with the FBI.
Still, he reminded the public that safety is not just “about the police,” and called for the collective effort of everyone in the community to help keep the city safe. He also advised people to be vigilant.
“Don’t live in fear but pay attention to where you are. Pay attention to your surroundings. If you see something that doesn’t look right – you are from the neighborhood, you know what’s right and what’s not right – make a call to 911. Don’t walk past it.”