Chelsea bombing witness describes 'earthquake' explosion


Prosecutors rested their case against accused Chelsea bomber Ahmad Khan Rahimi on Thursday after their final witness described how she and her 11-year-old son were shaken by a detonation on West 23rd Street last September.

Tsitsi Merritt of Harlem said she was in a friend’s car at a traffic light on West 23rd with her boy in the backseat on a shopping trip to Bed Bath & Beyond when a bomb shook the car, shattered rear windows on her son and sent other bystanders running and screaming.

Merritt, who started crying as she watched a surveillance video of the white Toyota as the bomb went off, compared it to an “earthquake,” leaving her son and her friend dazed and unresponsive and setting off a “kind of hysteric.” scene.

“I was telling my son ‘you’re OK, just calm down. You’re ok,’” she said. “ . . . My ears were ringing, a lot of vibration going on in my head. I felt like I had an alien head . . .uldn’t really grasp how I was feeling.”

After Merritt testified and the government rested, defense lawyers spent a half-hour consulting with Rahimi before announcing to U.S. District Judge Richard Berman that he would not testify and they would not present a case. Summations are scheduled to begin at 1 p.m.

Rahimi, 29, of Elizabeth, N.J., is charged with setting off a pressure cooker bomb on West 23rd that injured 30 people, and putting another bomb on West 27th Street that was disabled before exploding. He is separately charged in New Jersey with planting bombs there and a police shootout.

Merritt was on of more than a dozen victim witnesses who testified about the impact of the blast on Weset 23d on them or their property, which the defense argued was overkill designed to appeal to the emotions of the jury.

The government also presented surveillance videos that showed a man resembling Rahimi leaving suitcases in the area, jihadist sentiments in a notebook found when he was captured, purchase records of materials used in the bombs, and DNA and fingerprint evidence from bombs in New York and New Jersey.

The trial began on Oct. 2.

 

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