MANHATTAN — Two NYPD Bomb Squad detectives were promoted on Friday for their roles in taking apart and rendering safe a pressure cooker bomb loaded with shrapnel that was left on a Manhattan street by terror suspect Ahmad Khan Rahami.
Jason Hallik and Anthony Mason played key roles in removing the unexploded device from West 27th Street and then meticulously disarming and dismantling it at the NYPD’s gun range at Rodman’s Neck in The Bronx.
"I've been doing it for awhile," Hallik said. "Whether it's an empty package or it's something, you're out there trying to protect everybody and just do your job. You don't think anything of it."
The unexploded device and a flip phone loosely attached to it as the detonator provided a trove of forensic and investigative leads that quickly lead to Rahami’s home in Elizabeth, N.J., roughly 50 hours after his first bomb exploded on nearby West 23rd Street, injuring more than 30 people.
The duo were bumped up from third grade detectives to second grade on Friday during the first promotion ceremony held by new Commissioner James O'Neill at Police Headquarters.
"The whole thing is very humbling," said Mason, the range safety officer at Rodman's Neck in The Bronx. "With all the training and everything that we have and we constantly practice, we're ready for something like that."
The device was initially found by two tourists from Egypt. They were strolling along the street and decided to take a look at the colorful suitcase that contained the bomb, unwittingly finding it and leaving it on the sidewalk before walking off with the luggage.
They may have dislodged the flip phone from the device, but the detectives had to spend hours carefully taking the device apart to ensure their were no secondary ignition triggers, and then unpacking the tightly sealed pot and its contents, which contained pounds of ball bearings and other shrapnel.
"Due to the type of device, we used one of our Bomb Squad robots," Hallik said. "I operated the robot to remove the cell phone and remove the device from 27th Street into a TCV, a total containment vessel."
The FBI is expected to interview the two Egyptians, who are airline pilots and returned to their native country shortly after the blast, apparently unaware of their bizarre connection to the terror attack.
Meanwhile, Rahami remains in a New Jersey hospital where he is being treated for multiple gunshot wounds he sustained in a shootout with Linden police.
Hallik said it's the joy he gets in helping others that makes him love his job.
"It's just something inside you," he said. "Every device you take care of saves lives. It's human life. Nothing is more satisfying than that."