New York

Victim in Wheelchair at Trial: Chelsea Bombing Felt Like ‘Doomsday'

An explosion that shook Chelsea last year caused a panic that felt like "doomsday," a partially paralyzed man testified Wednesday at the trial of an alleged bomber.

Cort Cheek told a federal jury that he was in a motorized wheelchair outside his apartment building getting air when he heard a loud "double boom" and felt debris hitting his face - a scene captured on one of several security videotapes played in the courtroom showing he and other people recoiling and trying to flee.

"My heart was just jumping," the 58-year-old Cheek testified. "I thought it was doomsday. It happened so fast, I was in shock."

Another disabled witness, Chelsea resident Mary West, testified that she was in her seventh-floor bedroom when she heard a blast that shook her building, followed by the machine-gun-like sound of metal striking the street below.

Then I heard screaming - loud, very loud screaming," said the 65-year-old West, who's blind. "I felt absolute terror."

"I thought to myself, 'You might even be dead and you don't realize it,'" she said. 

The testimony came on the third day of the trial of Ahmad Khan Rahimi, who's charged in the attack that injured 30 people on the night of Sept. 16, 2016.

Prosecutors say Rahimi considered himself "a soldier in a Holy War against Americans" in an alleged plot involving homemade pressure-cooker bombs. The Chelsea explosion was strong enough to toss a trash bin into the air, shatter windows and scatter metal scraps into the street. A second bomb planted at a charity race in Seaside Park, New Jersey, also exploded but didn't hurt anyone.

On Wednesday, jurors also saw eBay records showing someone with Rahimi's name purchased a transmitter, electric wiring, steal slingshot ammo and other items prosecutors say were bomb ingredients.

Never-before-seen surveillance video shown to jurors traced the path of Rahimi, who can be seen carrying heavy bags in Penn Station and into Manhattan streets before sitting at a park bench in Chelsea 90 minutes before the bombing, according to prosecutors. 

Another surveillance video allegedly shows Rahimi buying bomb-making materials from Home Depot. 

Rahimi, 29, has pleaded not guilty to using a weapon of mass destruction and other charges. Defense lawyers haven't hinted at a defense, except to suggest the FBI didn't properly secure the blast scene. 

The trial in federal court in Manhattan is expected to last another week.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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