Questions remain after shootouts, capture of Boston bombing suspect
Friday began with a series of bangs for Watertown residents as a violent car chase ended with a shootout in a residential neighborhood, leading to a fruitless search for the surviving Boston Marathon bombing suspect, and ultimately his capture shortly after a request that residents remain indoors was lifted.
One of the warmest days of the year had already cooled and turned misty with thick clouds churning overhead as authorities told residents they must go on with their lives even though a violent murderer had so-far eluded police, escaping on foot after abandoning a vehicle early in the morning. The at-large suspect’s older brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, was killed during the gun fight.
Then within an hour after announcing there had been no arrest, 19-year-old Dzhokar Tsarnaev was discovered hiding in a boat in a Watertown driveway and quickly surrounded. Neighbors heard loud gun shots and the massive police presence already in town swiftly converged on Franklin Street.
“When the gunfire went off we took cover and hit the ground, but besides that we were pretty anxious to see what was going on,” said 20-year-old Matt McNamara.
McNamara’s house is across the street from the driveway with the boat, and he said he and his family attempted to leave when they saw the street filling up with law enforcement, but they were ordered to stay inside. McNamara said police started arriving as dusk fell at about 6:30 p.m. or 6:45 p.m., and he was finally able to join the crowd behind a police perimeter sometime before 9 p.m. Police keeping watch on the crowd along Mount Auburn Street spread the word of Tsarnaev’s capture around 8:45 p.m. by clapping as one officer said, “Got ‘em.”
President Barack Obama, who rallied the region’s spirits in a speech at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston on Thursday morning, addressed the public – many of whom had little sleep since waking up Thursday morning.
“Boston police and state police and local police across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts responded with professionalism and bravery over five long days, and tonight because of their determined efforts we’ve closed an important chapter in this tragedy,” Obama said from the White House Friday night.
“Obviously tonight there are still many unanswered questions. Among them: Why did young men who grew up and studied here as part of our communities and our country resort to such violence? How did they plan and carry out these attacks and did they receive any help? The families of those killed so senselessly deserve answers,” Obama said. He directed federal authorities to “continue to deploy all the necessary resources to support the investigation, to collect intelligence and to protect our citizens.”
Noting that there is a “temptation” to “jump to conclusions,” Obama said, “That’s why we have courts, and that’s why we take care not to rush to judgment, not about the motivations of these individuals, certainly not about entire groups of people.”
The tip that led to Dzhokar Tsarnaev’s capture came in from a Franklin Street man who had abided by the governor’s request to stay indoors, a directive aimed at assisting in the manhunt, and then noticed something odd when he stepped outside after the request was listed.
“He walked outside and he saw blood on a boat in the backyard. He then opened the tarp on the top of the boat, and he looked in and he saw a man covered in blood. He retreated and called us,” Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis told reporters. “We set up a perimeter around that boat, and over the course of the next hour or so we exchanged gunfire with the suspect who was inside the boat, and ultimately the hostage-rescue team or the FBI made an entry into the boat and removed the suspect who was still alive in the boat.”
Davis said the hostage-rescue team tried to “talk him out” but the suspect “was not communicative.” Speaking to CNN, Davis said Dzhokar Tsarnaev was “severely injured” likely from the shootout after the car chase and perhaps also from the gun battle with police around the boat.
Davis said the Franklin Street yard where the suspect was eventually located was “just slightly outside” the 20-street area of Watertown where Alben said law enforcement had been going door-to-door and “conducting limited searches of those homes to render them safe.”
A lifetime neighborhood resident who was walking her dog when she hear the gun fire Friday night, Mary Sullivan said Franklin Street is easily accessible from the area where the car chase ended at Dexter and Laurel streets.
“There’s not a lot of dead-ends and if you know the town you can make your way down to Watertown Square without ever going on Mount Auburn Street,” Sullivan told the News Service.
After the arrest, U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz said “there is a public safety exemption” in terrorism cases to the Miranda requirement that a suspect be read his rights after an arrest.
As smiling SWAT officers emerged from Franklin Street they were greeted with applause from the crowd of neighbors that lined the sidewalks. Law enforcement vehicles making their way from the crime scene down Mount Auburn cruised past a throng of people cheering in the street and thumping the hoods of the cars.
The festive mood was a departure from the rest of the day in which public transit was shut down, and people were advised to stay home behind locked doors in Boston, Cambridge, Newton, Waltham, Belmont and Watertown.
“Remember there is still a very, very dangerous individual at large, but we feel confident based on what we know about the status of the investigation right now that to that extent we can return to living our lives,” Gov. Deval Patrick said at the press conference before the wounded Dzhokar Tsarnaev was discovered, advising people to “remain vigilant” as he lifted his request that they remain indoors.
“I don’t have any direct knowledge that he’s here in the Boston area, but we don’t think he’d get much further. His ties seem to be here,” State Police Superintendent Timothy Alben said at the time.
At the press conference held little after 6 p.m., Patrick said that the request to remain indoors was lifted and the MBTA would resume service.
“Thank you to the business community for working with us over the last several hours, closed their businesses,” Boston Mayor Tom Menino said. “Big economic loss for them. Together we’re going to get through this.”
The press conference was held across the street from the old Watertown Arsenal – now a mall – which produced gun parts and firearms from around the time of the Civil War through World War II, according to the Library of Congress. Immediately after the afternoon press conference, helicopters buzzed overhead and a line of Humvees rumbled through the parking lot.
Two bombs in the crowd of the Boston Marathon finish line exploded Monday afternoon killing three and injuring more than 180 people, according to the FBI’s latest tally. The attack, which marred a cherished holiday for many, launched a massive investigatory operation, as federal and state law enforcement processed evidence from a multi-block crime scene around Copley Square and followed up on tips.
Early Thursday evening, the FBI appealed to the public for help in its investigation, releasing photos and video taken at the marathon of what officials believed to be the two suspects. About five hours later, the suspects revealed themselves to be startlingly close to the attack when they allegedly assassinated MIT police officer Sean Collier in his cruiser at Vassar and Main streets in Cambridge, right across the Charles River from the marathon crime scene. The two brothers allegedly committed a car-jacking, letting the driver out unharmed at a Memorial Drive gas station and then led police into Watertown, dropping explosives out of the car.
“I think this developed rather quickly last night, and I would wager that most of the activity that was printed in the media yesterday forced them to make decisions or take actions that ultimately revealed who they were,” said Alben.
Although on Thursday the FBI said the grainy images it released were the “only ones that the public should use to assist us,” in the minutes and hours that followed the release of the photos, new higher-resolution images began to circulate online.
People from various municipalities said they could hear the sound of the violent car chase, as police pursued the Tsarnaev brothers to Watertown.
“There were explosives that they had with them last night. They threw those at the police officers that were pursuing them,” Alben said. Alben said Dzhokar Tsarnaev abandoned a car and fled on foot.
MBTA Police officer Richard Donohue was injured in the gunfight. At 3 p.m. Sunday, MBTA Police Chief Paul MacMillan and General Manager Beverly Scott will join Donohue’s brother, also a police officer, at Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge for a media availability. T officials on Sunday also released a photo of Richard Donohue with Collier, taken the day they graduated together from the Municipal Police Officers’ Academy in 2010.
Both Tsarneov brothers are ethnic Chechens who were born in Kyrgyzstan, according to their uncle. According to the FBI, Tamerlan Tsarnaev was a legal permanent resident and Dzhokar Tsarnaev is a naturalized U.S. citizen.
In 2011, according to the FBI, a foreign government sought information about Tamerlan Tsarnaev “based on information that he was a follower of radical Islam and a strong believer, and that he had changed drastically since 2010 as he prepared to leave the United States for travel to the country’s region to join unspecified underground groups.” The FBI interviewed Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his family members and reported back that it had been unable to find evidence of terrorism activity, according to the FBI.
State Police spokesman David Procopio told reporters that police found a pressure cooker bomb that detonated during the chase, as well as several pipe bombs, some of which had been detonated. The FBI has said one or more of the marathon bombs may have been housed in a pressure cooker.
Procopio said recent police activity in New Bedford is “part of a lead we’re following up.”
Alben said the Tsarnaev brothers were at a 7-11 in Cambridge at a time that was “somewhat coincidental” to an armed robbery of the convenience store, but they did not rob the store. A Honda CR-V is being processed and its “relevance to the case is still not known,” Alben said.
Residents spent Friday inside glued to news coverage while daffodils bloomed outside, a police boat patrolled the Charles River and police sought out a 19-year-old who reportedly attended Cambridge Rindge and Latin School.
Temperatures reached a high of 75 degrees in Boston, the highest of the year so-far, according to the National Weather Service.
Harvard Square, which would ordinarily be pulsing with life on a beautiful Friday afternoon, was a ghost town, with a few scatterings of pedestrians, people sitting at tables and panhandlers.
Meanwhile the expansive Watertown Mall parking lot, which served as a briefing area for the media, was filled with news trucks and reporters, many of whom had been following the story since the murder of the MIT officer Thursday night.
“I know you’re all tired. We certainly are as well,” Alben said, greeting reporters Friday afternoon.
“Today, the city of Boston, the city of Cambridge, and the city of Watertown—and many other communities—can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that two perpetrators who caused so much pain and anguish are no longer a threat to our personal safety and our communities,” said Boston FBI Special Agent in Charge Rick DesLauriers after the capture. He said it felt like “many months” not five days since the bombing. At the press conference held before the suspect’s capture, DesLauriers stood silent and staring ahead.
Among the neighbors who gathered outside the police perimeter Friday night were former Attorney General Tom Reilly, who declined to comment during the police activity beyond saying “We live here,” and Rep. Jonathan Hecht who arrived with his wife and daughter after the suspect was in custody.
“People were staying in their homes, because that’s what they were asked to do. Everyone recognized how serious it was,” Hecht said. He said there had been a lot of communication online throughout the day. Asked what the town would need in the future, Hecht said, “I think we’ll be fine,” and said it is a diverse and welcoming community.
“We sort of got caught up in this international story the exact details of which we don’t know,” Hecht said, noting the speculation that has accompanied the emergence of facts about the suspects’ backgrounds. He said, “Thank God in this country and in this state and in this town despite all our differences, we pitch in together.”