Sikh man who found suspect: I did what every American would have done
What Harinder Bains did isn’t unusual: He saw something suspicious and called police.
But who Harinder Bains is makes this story special.
Bains is the bar owner who led police to Ahmad Rahami, the suspect in the New York and New Jersey blasts.
While officials haven’t pinned an exact motive to the Afghanistan-born Rahami’s act, a handwritten note is said to have contained ramblings, including references to previous terrorists, such as the Boston Marathon bombers.
That’s what makes Bains actions remarkable.
Bains is a Sikh American. And every time an attack has been carried out by an Islamic extremist, Sikhs — mistaken for Muslims because of their turbans and beards — have borne the backlash. And 15 years after 9/11, Sikhs don’t feel any safer. The hate spewed toward them, as immigrants, has only spiked because of the xenophobic tenor in some quarters these days.
Which brings us to Bains – a Sikh man, an immigrant — who had a hand in stopping a suspect — another immigrant — from getting away with a crime.
“Not for nuthin’ the guy who recognized & called the police on the bomb suspect was an IMMIGRANT named Harinder Bains. IMMIGRANT= HERO!” tweeted Cecile Kazemi, echoing a sentiment repeated over and over online.
But talk to Bains and he’ll tell you his actions had nothing to do with his Sikh faith.
“I did what I think every American would have done,” Bains told CNN’s Chris Cuomo. “My neighbor would have done the same thing. Any Jewish, Christian, Sikh, Muslim. Anybody would have done the same thing.”
“I’m from Sikh faith,” he added. “I’ve been taught always stand up against the atrocities, any kind of persecution.”
On Monday morning, Bains spotted Rahami sleeping in the doorway of his bar in Linden, New Jersey.
At first, Bains said he thought Rahami was a “drunk guy” wandering the streets.
“This has happened before also — somebody loitering in front of the bar. And always I go there and confront people and I yell at them. But somehow maybe [because] it was raining, I didn’t do anything. I felt bad for him.”
Later, as he was watching CNN from another business across the street, he recognized the 28-year-old as the person wanted for questioning in this weekend’s bombings.
He called 911.
“I just told them the guy looks a little suspicious and doesn’t look good to me,” Bains told “Anderson Cooper 360.”
When officers confronted him, Rahami pulled out a handgun and shot one of them.
“He shot twice and the glass splinters almost hit my store,” Bains said.
A shootout ensued, and then the world watched as cameras caught Rahami being loaded into an ambulance on a stretcher.
It was a stunning end to a two-day manhunt.
Bains insists he is not a hero.
But he is using the spotlight to promote a message of inclusion: “We will be more stronger like this if we do everything together.”