Authorities investigate Tsarnaev’s prior trip to Times Square

Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, is pictured in this undated FBI handout photo. Credit: FBI/Reuters.
Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, is pictured in this undated FBI handout photo. Credit: FBI/Reuters.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly confirmed today that Dzhokhar Tsarvaev told investigators last night that he and his brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, planned to drive to New York and detonate bombs in Times Square.

This plan apparently came out of a spur-of-the-moment decision after the brothers hijacked a Mercedes SUV Thursday night.

The driver of the SUV had previously told investigators that the brothers spoke a foreign language to one another while in the car, but that he had been able to make out the word “Manhattan.”

They had with them in the SUV six bombs, including a pressure cooker bomb similar to the two that were detonated at the Boston Marathon ten days ago.

The other five bombs were pipe bombs, Bloomberg said.

While he maintained that the decision to hit New York was spontaneous, Bloomberg said he did not know where the brothers had planned to take the bombs prior to setting their sights on Times Square.

Some details are apparently still unknown to Bloomberg and Kelly, though Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne did confirm that there is more information out there.

The investigation into the younger Tsarnaev brother has reportedly turned up photos of him in Times Square with friends last year, “on or before April 18,” Kelly said.

Tsarnaev was reportedly in the city again in November of last year.

Kelly said authorities “don’t know if the visits were related in any way” to the reportedly “spontaneous” decision to target Times Square.

The NYPD Intelligence Division is investigating Tsarnaev’s “movements” in the city and who he may have been with or interacted with while here. Some people in the Times Square photo have already been identified, Kelly reported.

Kelly had previously said, as recently as Wednesday, that the brothers had planned to come to New York to “party,” information which apparently came from the initial questioning by investigators.

Today Kelly said that authorities are inclined to believe last night’s confession over the previous statement because Tsarnaev was reportedly “more lucid” during the second questioning.

While they said there is no way to know if the NYPD would have been able to stop the Tsarnaev brothers if they had made it to Times Square, Bloomberg noted that there would have been numerous officers visible all around Times Square, as well as “an extensive network of cameras” that the brothers would not have seen.

Bloomberg and Kelly pointed to the large role surveillance camera footage played in the investigation into the Boston Marathon bombings, asserting that shows how crucial surveillance is to New Yorkers’ security.

The NYPD already uses a vehicle that takes 360-degree photos along the route of major events, like marathons, but Kelly said they want to expand the numbers of cameras around the city generally.

In particular, he said, they would like to increase the number of “smart cameras” they use, which use video analytics to conduct real-time facial recognition.

Bloomberg agreed that cameras are an integral part of the city’s security measures, noting that they work as a deterrent because “you’re never going to know where all our cameras are.”

Kelly and Bloomberg both assured the public there is “no evidence to suggest that New York City is currently a target.”

“Do I feel safe going out tonight?” Bloomberg asked. “Yes. Do I feel safe that every area of the city is protected? Yes, I do.”

The mayor said “it’s a dangerous world, but you’re probably safer here than you are anywhere else.”

 

Follow Danielle Tcholakian on Twitter @danielleiat


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