ASBURY PARK, N.J. — The man accused of wounding two Linden police officers in a shootout after planting bombs in New Jersey and New York legally purchased a 9mm handgun in Virginia two months before the shooting, the owner of the gun store said.
Ahmad Rahami presented a Virginia ID and fishing license and passed state and federal background checks to buy a $499 Glock 19 in Salem, Va., according to Jerry Cochran, owner of Trader Jerry's, the store where Rahami's gun was purchased.
“Just a typical, common sale," Cochran said of the purchase. "Nothing stood out of the ordinary. No red flags."
That is until federal agents requested the forms Rahami filled out when purchasing the guns. Cochran saw Rahami's name on the news and drew the connection between the sale and the suspect.
“I really hate that anybody got hurt with anything we’ve ever sold," Cochran said. "We sell them with the idea that people are using them to protect themselves and not to harm others. Because people that buy guns from me have gone through a criminal, and a small portion of a mental, background check.
Cochran said he's been in business for 35 years, and police have traced guns to the store in the past, but never an incident of this magnitude.
“It’s shocking to me that somebody would make such a concerted effort to come — if he’s truly from New Jersey — to Virginia, establish residency over a five- or six-month period to purchase a gun," Cochran said. "Illegal guns are much easier to get.”
The Roanoke Times newspaper in Virginia reported Rahami's father rented a home in Roanoke near the store where Rahami bought the gun. Cochran described that area as a rougher part of town, so it's not uncommon for a resident there to seek self-protection.
New Jersey's gun laws are considered to be among the strictest in the country — ranked third out of 50 by the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
Cochran pointed out that his staff followed the law in their state.
“I don’t know what I could do any different," Cochran said. "We put in the checks that are afforded to us. So I don’t know.”
The FBI, Union County Prosecutor's Office and Salem Commonwealth's Attorney's Office declined to comment.