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Remarks Announcing Officer Angel Padilla, Hero Who Caught Lone Wolf Terrorist, as Guest to Joint Session of Congress
MAHWAH, N.J., February 27, 2017
It’s an honor to be here at the Bergen County Law and Public Safety Institute. Not only is this one of the premier training centers for first responders in our state, but is also home to memorials that remind us of just how much we owe to the men and women who put their lives on the lines every day to keep our families safe.
The steel beam here comes from the 110th floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Twelve Emergency Services members from Bergen County made the supreme sacrifice on that fateful day fifteen years ago. The memorial also honors those who later succumbed to 9/11 related illnesses and the twenty-one U.S. Military Service Members from Bergen County who lost their lives in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.
We remember them and honor their sacrifice, and service and bravery. We also honor the memories of the brave 117 Bergen County First Responders – here on the Wall of Heroes -- who lost their lives in the line of duty.
These memorials are a solemn reminder of the day-in-and-day out risks law enforcement and first responders face protecting our communities.
But here at this top-notch training facility, we also have cause for optimism as we look toward the future. Right here, our first responders are taught the very latest skills, so they can remain safe while keeping us safe.
With the latest technology and the best instructors, the Bergen County Public Safety Institute ensures that our law enforcement officers, firefighters and EMTs are prepared to confront all the challenges of the 21st Century, from fighting criminals, to fighting terrorism, to fighting fires, to fighting opiate abuse and rescuing lives.
So, it’s an honor to be here today to announce my guest to the President’s Address to the Joint Session of Congress tomorrow night.
As you may know, each year, as the Constitution requires, the President delivers to Congress the outline of his priorities and plans for the year ahead. And, traditionally, each Member of Congress has the opportunity to bring one guest.
As my first guest, as a new Congressman, I chose to invite someone who embodies and exemplifies the very best of New Jersey, the very best of our values, the very best of law enforcement, a true American hero.
Officer Angel Padilla has served as a police officer in Linden, New Jersey for sixteen years. He grew up in Perth Amboy and started his law enforcement career there, serving ten years as an auxiliary police officer, before joining the Linden force. His brother, Eddie, is still on the force in Perth Amboy, and serving with distinction. Not only are the Padillas a law enforcement family, but they are a Giants family through and through. So they have their priorities right.
This fall, only miles from here in the streets of Chelsea, New York, just blocks from Ground Zero, a homegrown terrorist exploded a massive bomb, injuring 29 people and sending chills and fear through our region and our country. Another pressure cooker bomb was found, undetonated, just blocks away. The next day, authorities found two pipe bombs in a train station in Elizabeth, NJ.
They also identified Ahmad Khan Rahami as the prime suspect for these despicable and heartless terrorist attacks – and they launched a massive manhunt.
On the early morning of September 19th, 2016, as our days were just beginning, Officer Padilla and two of his colleagues responded to a call of a suspicious man sleeping in the doorway of a bar in Linden. When they arrived and woke him up, Officer Padilla realized he just found the man the nation was hunting, Ahmad Kahn Rahami.
When Officer Padilla ordered Rahami to show his hands, Rahami shot Padilla in his abdomen using his 9 mm Glock. Fortunately, our hero was wearing a bulletproof vest and was able to return fire. Rahami fled, pursued by police who he shot at indiscriminately, before finally being captured by Padilla and his fellow officers. Padilla and the Linden police department had caught the lone wolf terrorist.
Padilla’s heroism that morning deservedly took the national spotlight. We all couldn’t have been more proud and relieved that Rahami was captured.
On November 18th, a federal grand jury indicted Rahami on eight counts, including using a weapon of mass destruction. He pled not guilty, and his trial is set to begin this October.
While Rahami is a United States citizen, like more half of those who’ve committed terrorist attacks on our homeland, investigators believe he became radicalized after a trip to Afghanistan in 2014.
We have Officer Padilla and his colleagues to thank for apprehending Rahami, stopping a terrorist in his tracks, and protecting our community. Had it not been for the commendable cooperation between first responders in New York and New Jersey, who knows how many more of our fellow citizens would have been injured or killed.
Officer Padilla’s actions in September were truly heroic. But his heroism extends far beyond that one day.
Padilla is recognized as a community-oriented officer, building bridges between residents and law enforcement in both English and Spanish. He volunteers with the PTA at his grandson’s public school. And he’s involved with the annual Police Unity Tour, a bicycle ride to Washington, D.Cc, to help raise awareness for officers who have died in the line of duty.
I’m honored to be able to extend this opportunity to a hero like Officer Padilla – and to thank all of those who put their lives on the line to protect us every single day. Nothing is more important to me than making sure we have the backs of our law enforcement and first responders, and making sure they know they have our support.
That’s why, in January, when the U.S. Department of Transportation tried to tell New Jersey towns that the blue lines on our roads, painted in support of our law enforcement, were out of compliance with road safety standards, I spoke up.
As a Congressman, I will do everything I can to make sure our law enforcement officers, and all first responders, get the resources they need to do their jobs effectively. That means chasing down federal resources for training and hiring and for purchasing the latest safety equipment.
It’s why one of my first acts in Congress was to join the Firefighter Caucus, led by our friend, Congressman Bill Pascrell. And why Bill and I stood in Teaneck and announced the availability and importance of Safer Grants for firefighters, and why I encouraged our towns to fight for CCT Homeland Security Grants, to stop terrorists like Rahami before they attack our communities.
When Officer Padilla was shot by a terrorist, he was protected by his bulletproof vest. We need to make sure all our first responders have the protection they need to stay safe while serving us.
Because as Officer Padilla reminds us, and as we saw in Orlando, Boston and San Bernadino, our law enforcement officers not only protect our communities from local dangers, they are on the front lines in our fight against terror.
Our war on terror is a war fought on multiple fronts, and in Congress, I am committed to doing whatever I can to stop terror in its tracks.
I serve on the Terrorism and Illicit Finance Subcommittee, where we are working to disrupt the funding mechanisms of terrorist organizations like Hezbollah, ISIS, and Al Qaeda.
Earlier this month, I also introduced a bipartisan bill, HR 911, that would mandate the installation of secondary barriers on commercial airplanes to prevent would-be hijackers from charging the cockpits on our flights like they did on 9/11.
The threats we face aren’t just coming from overseas. They are here. Homegrown and Lone wolf terrorists don’t need to go overseas to get their training; they literally can sit in their living room and watch YouTube videos. It’s difficult to detect and stop someone who was radicalized in their own apartment here in New Jersey.
That’s why the sort of community policing practiced by Officer Padilla and others is critical. Members of our local communities are best situated to see alarming changes in someone’s behavior, so it’s essential that they have strong and trusting relationships with law enforcement and know what to look for and where to turn if they see something troubling from a coworker, parishioner, classmate, or neighbor.
To close, I want to reiterate how honored I am to be joined tomorrow night by a true New Jersey hero, Officer Padilla and to serve our community every day in Congress.
Thank you and God bless you.