Marathon bombing suspects planned to take Copley terror to Times Square
Bombing suspects Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev were allegedly en route to set off six bombs in New York City’s Times Square after their attack on the Boston Marathon, but the plan fell through due to last Thursday’s shootout with police.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said at a press conference today that the Tsarnaev brothers’ made a “spontaneous decision” to hijack a car in Cambridge last Thursday and drive to the tourist destination and detonate explosives. They had one pressure cooker bomb and five pipe bombs in their possession.
“If God forbid they’d arrived in New York City and arrived in Times Square, they would have seen not only the police presence but an extensive network of cameras” meant to identify suspicious packages, Bloomberg said.
The plan was apparently not well thought out. According to officials, the Mercedes SUV the brothers hijacked was low on gas, and the brothers stopped at an ATM to get cash.
The abducted driver escaped when the car pulled into a gas station and both brothers got out, one to pump the gas and the other to pay for it at the station’s night cashier, according to what Dzhokhar reportedly told investigators during a bedside interrogation at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
The driver then called police and a shootout with the bombing suspects began, eventually leading to the killing of older brother Tamerlan, 26, and the arrest of Dzhokhar, 19, in Watertown. Police later said the pair threw explosive devices out of the car window.
Before these developments, New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said yesterday the men wanted to drive to New York to “party.”
“The information that we received said something about partying or having a party,” Kelly told reporters yesterday, adding that the NYPD has no information that the brothers had plotted a terror attack in the city.
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.
Today, Kelly suggested the bombs could have caused extensive damage in the bustling New York City hub.
“Look at what the bomb did in Boston and you (can)… speculate on what it could do in Times Square. There are clubs, bars… I wouldn’t want to guess, but clearly, you saw the power for the bombs in Boston … you can give a ‘guestimate’ as to what they (would do) in New York City.”
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.”
The brothers are accused of detonating two pressure-cooker bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15, killing three people and injuring 264. The brothers were identified by the FBI as suspects from pictures and video at the scene.
Prosecutors formally charged Dzhokhar Tsarnaev with the bombings in a hearing before a U.S. magistrate judge in his hospital room on Monday, accusing him of crimes that carry the possibility of the death penalty.
Tsarnaev has spoken to FBI investigators, however today reports surfaced that suggest he has stopped answering questions.
Danielle Tcholakian contributed to this article from New York.