MANHATTAN – Two NYPD Bomb Squad detectives were promoted Friday for successfully removing and rendering safe the second explosive device in Chelsea on Sept. 17 after the first bomb exploded on West 23rd Street and injured 29 people.
Detectives Jason Hallik and Anthony Mason were promoted to second-grade detective for their work on September 17. They removed the bomb from West 27th Street, a pressure cooker filled with shrapnel allegedly left by terror suspect Ahmad Khan Rahami, which failed to detonate.
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“It was a very dangerous task. I want to congratulate two of these guys on great work,” said Police Commissioner James O’Neill, who presided over the ceremony, his first since taking over as the city’s top cop.
“Whether it’s an empty package or it’s something, you’re out there trying to protect everybody and just do your job,” Hallik said.
“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 unexploded device and a flip phone loosely attached to it as the detonator provided a trove of forensic and investigative leads that quickly pointed to Rahami’s home in Elizabeth, N.J.
The detectives had to spend long hours carefully dismantling the device to ensure there were no secondary ignition triggers and then unpacking the tightly closed pressure cooker and its contents, which contained pounds of ball bearings and shrapnel.
Detective Hallik used a robot to remove the cell phone from the pressure-cooker and secured it inside a containment vessel. The pressure cooker was brought back to the NYPD firing range at Rodman’s Neck.
“They were able to use a device to open the lid, and it didn’t explode,” said NYPD Counterterrorism Chief James Waters.
Waters described the whole squad as officers with ‘nerves of steel.’ “They’re confident, they’re well-trained, and they’re well-equipped.”
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 TCV utilized by the detectives was hitched to a police truck. It is designed to absorb the blast of an explosive if it detonates, according to Lt. Mark Torre, the commanding officer of the NYPD’s bomb squad.
In a video tweeted by the NYPD, Torre said, “If a bomb were to explode inside there, the pressure would bleed off to a series of small events but all the fragmentation that would be associated with it, and of course, the blast pressure shockwave, it’s contained.”
The NYPD Bomb Squad is equipped with everything from high-tech robots to specialized bomb transport vehicles to help highly trained officers pic.twitter.com/z0cCrbSAjl
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The unexploded device was studied for around 10 hours at the gun range on Sept. 18, police said. They wanted to disarm it so the device would provide as much evidentiary value as possible.
Police tried a number of techniques to disarm the device but without success until Hallik and Mason successfully rendered it safe.
“It’s a tremendous amount of heart and a tremendous amount of courage to do something like that,” said Commissioner O’Neil.
Hallik said the promotion came with a call from NYPD Chief of Counterterrorism James Waters, which was as much of an honor as the promotion itself.
“At first I didn’t believe it, actually,” Hallik said. “Not only was I being promoted but the fact the chief called and congratulated me meant a lot.”
Hallik sees something very noble in his “Hurt Locker” lifestyle. He said it’s the joy he gets in helping others that make him love his job and chose to work in such a dangerous unit.
“Why would you want to be a doctor or a police officer?” he asked. “There is something inside you that gets great satisfaction in helping others.”
“Every device you take care of saves lives,” he said. “There’s nothing more satisfying than that.”