MANHATTAN FEDERAL COURT — Jurors in the trial of the accused Chelsea bomber rose from their seats and leaned over the jury box Thursday morning to examine a dumpster that was mangled by the explosion on West 23rd Street last year, as an NYPD bomb squad detective testified about the aftermath of the blast.
Two prosecutors pulled a blanket off the green dumpster at the front of the courtroom and wheeled it to face the jury box on the fourth day of accused bomber Ahmad Khan Rahimi’s trial.
“Do you recognize this?” government attorney Shawn Crowley asked witness Jason Hallik, an NYPD bomb squad detective who swept the scene after the explosion on Sept. 17 last year.
“Yes. That’s the dumpster [that was] on 23rd Street,” Hallik testified.
A crater-like indentation on the side of the receptacle indicated the explosive device had been placed next to it before it went off, he added.
Hallik, who helped sweep West 23rd Street for evidence following the blast that injured dozens, was also part of the team that removed and dismantled a second pressure cooker bomb found on West 27th Street the night of Sept. 17, 2016.
At the scene that night, “the first thing” Hallik noticed was that there was still a cellphone attached to the unexploded pressure cooker on 27th Street.
The team decided they’d have to use a robot to remove the cellphone, as that “was probably the trigger,” the detective recalled.
The robot used to dismantle the West 27th Street bomb, left, and the total containment vessel, right. (Department of Justice)
With a robot he was operating from a bomb squad truck, Hallik managed to remove the phone — a black flip phone connected to the device by wires, he said.
Using the robot’s claw, Hallik inched the device out into the street to get a better grip on it before lifting it up and placing it into a “total containment vessel,” which is used to safely transport explosive devices, he said.
An NYPD bomb squad truck pulled the now-protected device up to an NYPD facility in Rodman’s Neck in The Bronx, where Hallik’s team used pulleys and carabiners to lift the device out of the vessel, he recalled.
X-rays Hallik took of the device showed it contained a power line and BB pellets, he testified.
In a demolition area at the location, from behind a wall that would protect them from any blasts, Hallik and his team used a device resembling a “water cannon” to shoot at the top of the pressure cooker bomb and pop its lid off, he recalled.
The walled site in The Bronx where the bomb was dismantled. (Department of Justice)
The impact flipped the pressure cooker over and dumped out most of its contents, including the BBs, lead balls, nuts and Christmas tree lights, said Hallik, who was watching through one of the cameras on the robot.
At that point, Hallik considered the device to be “rendered safe,” he said.
He and another bomb squad detective, Anthony Mason, received promotions last year for the roles they played in rendering the device safe.
Rahimi faces charges including using a weapon of mass destruction, bombing a place of public use and destroying property by means of fire or explosive.