The Record: Gottheimer to bring wounded Linden officer to Trump address
MAHWAH — Linden police officer turned hero Angel Padilla is headed to Washington as Rep. Josh Gottheimer’s guest for Tuesday’s joint session of Congress.
Gottheimer, who represents New Jersey’s 5th District, announced his selection Monday while standing in front of the Bergen County Law Enforcement Memorial. Traditionally, each member of Congress has the opportunity to bring one guest as the President outlines his plans and priorities for the coming year.
“I chose to invite someone who embodies and exemplifies the very best of New Jersey,” Gottheimer said, calling Padilla a “true American hero.”
The 48-year-old Linden patrolman earned national attention in September after he helped capture Ahmad Khan Rahami, an Elizabeth man wanted for allegedly planting pipe bombs days earlier in Manhattan and at a Marine Corps charity race in Seaside Park.
Padilla was injured in a shootout with Rahami, who allegedly fired on police when he was found sleeping in the doorway of a Linden bar. Padilla was struck in the abdomen, but a protective vest stopped the bullet.“Padilla’s heroism that morning deservedly took the national spotlight. We all couldn’t have been more proud and relieved that Rahami was captured,” Gottheimer, a Democrat, said Monday.
The officer of 16 years hails from a police family. Padilla’s brother currently serves in Perth Amboy.
“I’m very honored to be the congressman’s guest,” Padilla said.
September’s events have not drastically changed his perspective on the job, he said.
“That day was just like any other day where I answered the radio,” Padilla said. “Just don’t forget to wear your vest.”
He remains on departmental leave and is handling the added public attention “one day at a time,” he said.
Gottheimer, a freshman congressman who ousted seven-term Republican Scott Garrett in November, has been a strong supporter of law enforcement. He took a hard-line stance during his campaign against the rise of so-called “lone wolf” terrorism, calling for increased funds for community policing and a crackdown on ISIS-inspired propaganda and training online. Gottheimer serves on the House Terrorism and Illicit Finance subcommittee.
“We need to make sure all our first responders have the protection they need to stay safe while serving us,” Gottheimer said. “Because as Officer Padilla reminds us, and as we saw in Orlando, Boston and San Bernardino, our law enforcement officers not only protect our communities from local dangers, they are on the front lines in our fight against terror.”
Rahami faces federal charges of making a weapon of mass destruction and other offenses in connection with the bombings. A trial date is scheduled for October.
Gottheimer is not the only representative to invite a law enforcement guest.
Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-Mercer County, is inviting Luddie Austin, a retired Trenton police sergeant and Iraq war veteran who was a featured character on a reality program, “Manhunters: Fugitive Task Force.” Austin and Chief William McCrary of the Passaic County Sheriff’s Office are due to join members of Congress at a news conference about gun control on Capitol Hill Tuesday morning.
Other Democrats in the state congressional delegation are using guests to highlight issues they are pushing in the current session.
Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-Paterson, has invited George Yin, a University of Virginia law professor who has researched how Congress could use its power under a 1924 law to obtain President Donald Trump’s tax returns. Pascrell has been pushing to have the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee use that power.
Rep. Frank Pallone, meanwhile, has invited a leader of a liberal Trenton think tank. Jon Whiten, the vice president of New Jersey Policy Perspective, has been an outspoken critic of repealing the Affordable Care Act. That is an issue Pallone, D-Monmouth County, will be closely involved with as the top-ranking member of the minority on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.