The government used a tearful final witness and a closing argument to urge a jury Thursday to convict a New Jersey man in last year's New York bombing, saying he meant to kill Americans but "by some miracle" instead injured 30 people.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Emil Bove stood behind Ahmad Khan Rahimi as he told jurors evidence including dozens of videotapes, scores of witnesses and Rahimi's fingerprints and DNA were all they needed to know what happened on Sept. 17, 2016.
Bove said Rahimi purposely chose "soft targets" and unsuspecting victims when he planted bombs that morning along the route of a charity race in Seaside Park, New Jersey, and at dusk on 23rd and 27th streets in Manhattan. The New Jersey pipe bomb injured no one while the 23th street bomb caused all the injuries. The 27th street bomb did not explode.
"By some miracle, no one was killed," Bove said. "It's not a defense that nobody died."
The prosecutor said Rahimi, arrested in a shootout with New Jersey police officers two days after the attacks, left behind a claim of responsibility in a journal he wrote that amounts to a confession.
He said the open letter to the government described "his terrorist motivation, his deadly intent and his plan for the bomb" and came from a defendant who was proud of what he did.
"He wanted credit," Bove said.
Bove said Rahimi carried out the bombings with "tactical precision," pausing three times as he walked from Penn Station to the Chelsea neighborhood several blocks away because the bombs were set to go off at specific times.
"He was on a schedule," Bove said, noting that Rahimi sat on the steps of a church at one point as he waited for time to pass, watching crowds of people go by.
"He watched them and he wanted to kill them," Bove said.
The closing argument, scheduled to be followed by a defense closing on Friday, came after drama-filled moments earlier Thursday when it seemed Rahimi was seriously considering testifying.
Defense lawyer Sabrina Shroff told Judge Richard M. Berman that her 29-year-old client, who had consulted with several lawyers, had chosen not to testify. Defense lawyers have called the government's evidence flawed and urged jurors to keep open minds.
Earlier in the day, Tsitsi Merritt, a Zimbabwe citizen living in Harlem, cried as she watched a videotape of the bomb's explosion, which knocked out the back window of the car she was in, leaving her 11-year-old son in the back seat unable to immediately respond to her.
She said the earth moved like an earthquake and "people were running and screaming" immediately afterward.
"My ears were ringing," Merritt said, describing vibrations she felt in her head. "I felt like I had an alien head."