Five days of fear: What happened in Boston
FILE - This Monday, April 15, 2013 file photo provided by Bob Leonard shows second from right, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who was dubbed Suspect No. 1 and third from right, Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev, who was dubbed Suspect No. 2 in the Boston Marathon bombings by law enforcement. This image was taken approximately 10-20 minutes before the blast. Since Monday, Boston has experienced five days of fear, beginning with the marathon bombing attack, an intense manhunt and much uncertainty ending in the death of one suspect and the capture of the other. (AP Photo/Bob Leonard, File)
FILE - In this Monday, April 15, 2013 file photo, an emergency responder and volunteers, including Carlos Arredondo, in the cowboy hat, push Jeff Bauman in a wheelchair after he was injured in one of two explosions near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Since Monday, Boston has experienced five days of fear, beginning with the marathon bombing attack, an intense manhunt and much uncertainty ending in the death of one suspect and the capture of the other. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)
FILE - In this Monday, April 15, 2013 file photo, Bill Iffrig, 78, lies on the ground as police officers react to a second explosion at the finish line of the Boston Marathon in Boston. Iffrig, of Lake Stevens, Wash., was running his third Boston Marathon and near the finish line when he was knocked down by one of the two bomb blasts. Since Monday, Boston has experienced five days of fear, beginning with the marathon bombing attack, an intense manhunt and much uncertainty ending in the death of one suspect and the capture of the other. (AP Photo/The Boston Globe, John Tlumacki, File) MANDATORY CREDIT: THE BOSTON GLOBE, JOHN TLUMACKI
FILE - In this Wednesday, April 17, 2013 file photo, Boston Marathon runner Vu Trang, of San Francisco, cries at a makeshift memorial on Boylston Street near the finish line of Monday's Boston Marathon explosions, which killed at least three and injured more than 140, in Boston. The bombs that blew up seconds apart near the finish line left the streets spattered with blood and glass. Since Monday, Boston has experienced five days of fear, beginning with the marathon bombing attack, an intense manhunt and much uncertainty ending in the death of one suspect and the capture of the other. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)
FILE - In this Wednesday, April 17, 2013 file photo, mourners attend a candlelight vigil at City Hall in Cambridge, Mass., in the aftermath of Monday's Boston Marathon explosions, which killed at least three and injured more than 140. Since Monday, Boston has experienced five days of fear, beginning with the marathon bombing attack, an intense manhunt and much uncertainty ending in the death of one suspect and the capture of the other. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)
FILE - This combination of undated file photos shows Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, left, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19. The FBI says the two brothers are the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing, and are also responsible for killing an MIT police officer, critically injuring a transit officer in a firefight and throwing explosive devices at police during a getaway attempt in a long night of violence that left Tamerlan dead and Dzhokhar captured, late Friday, April 19, 2013. The ethnic Chechen brothers lived in Dagestan, which borders the Chechnya region in southern Russia. They lived near Boston and had been in the U.S. for about a decade, one of their uncles reported said. Since Monday, Boston has experienced five days of fear, beginning with the marathon bombing attack, an intense manhunt and much uncertainty ending in the death of one suspect and the capture of the other. (AP Photo/The Lowell Sun & Robin Young, File)
FILE - In this Friday, April 19, 2013 file photo obtained by The Associated Press and authenticated by a member of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, ATF and FBI agents check suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev for explosives and also give him medical attention after he was apprehended in Watertown, Mass., at the end of a tense day that began with his older brother, Tamerlan, dying in a getaway attempt. Tsarnaev lay hospitalized in serious condition under heavy guard Saturday as investigators continue piecing together the who and why of the two brothers involved in the deadly Boston Marathon bombings. Since Monday, Boston has experienced five days of fear, beginning with the marathon bombing attack, an intense manhunt and much uncertainty ending in the death of one suspect and the capture of the other. (AP Photo/File)
In the tight rows of chairs stretched across the Commonwealth Ballroom, the nervousness – already dialed high by two bombs, three deaths and more than 72 hours without answers – ratcheted even higher.
The minutes ticked by as investigators stepped out to delay the news conference once, then again. Finally, at 5:10 p.m. Thursday, a pair of FBI agents carried two large easels to the front of the Boston hotel conference chamber and saddled them with display boards. They turned the boards backward so as not to divulge the results of their sleuthing until, it had been decided, they could not afford to wait any longer.
Now the time had come to take that critical, but perilous step: introducing Boston to the two men believed responsible for an entire city’s terror.
“Somebody out there knows these individuals as friends, neighbors, co-workers or family members of the suspects,” said Richard DesLauriers, the FBI agent in charge in Boston. As he spoke, investigators flipped the boards around to reveal grainy surveillance-camera images of the men whose only identity was conferred by the black ball cap and sunglasses on one, the white ball cap worn backward on the other.
“Though it may be difficult, the nation is counting on those with information to come forward and provide it to us,” he said
At the least, Bostonians told each other, the photos proved that the monsters the city had imagined were responsible for maiming more than 170 were nothing more than ordinary men. But even as that relief sank in, the dread that had gripped the city since Monday at 2:50 p.m. was renewed.
If everyone had seen these photos, then that had to mean the suspects had seen them, too.
Marathon Monday dawned with the kind of April chill that makes spectators shiver and runners smile – the ideal temperature for keeping a body cool during 26.2 miles of pounding over hills and around curves. By the four-hour mark, more than 2∕3 of the field’s 23,000 runners had crossed the finish line, and the crowds of onlookers were beginning to thin a little.
Near the finish line, Brighid Wall of Duxbury, Mass., stood to watch the race with her husband and children, cheering on the competitors laboring through the race’s final demanding steps.
In the post-race chute Tracy Eaves, a 43-year-old controller from Niles, Mich., proudly claimed her medal and a Mylar blanket, and took a big swig from a bottle of Gatorade.
And at the corner of Newberry Street and Gloucester, cab driver Lahcene Belhoucet pulled over, happy with the overabundance of paying passengers on an afternoon that traditionally gives almost as much of a boost to Boston’s economy as it does to the city’s spirits.
But the blast brought the celebration crashing down.
“Everyone sort of froze, the runners froze, and then they kept going because you weren’t sure what it was,” Wall said. “The first explosion was far enough away that we only saw smoke.” Then the second bomb exploded, this time just 10 feet away.
“My husband threw our kids to the ground and lay on top of them,” Wall said. “A man lay on top of us and said, ‘Don’t get up! Don’t get up!’ ”
From her spot beyond the finish, a “huge shaking boom” washed over Eaves.
“I turned around and saw this monstrous smoke,” she said. She thought it might be part of the festivities, until the second blast and volunteers began rushing the runners from the scene.
“Then you start to panic,” she said.
Meanwhile, the instincts of Dr. Martin Levine, a Bayonne, N.J., physician who has long volunteered to attend to elite runners at the finish line, kicked in. Looking up at the plume of smoke, he estimated it was about two storefronts wide and quickly calculated how many spectators might be located in such an area.
“Make room for casualties – about 40!,” he yelled into the runners’ relief tent. “Get the runners out if they can!” And he took off. Just then the second bomb went off. He reached the site to find a landscape resembling a battlefield, littered with severed limbs.
“The people were still smoking, their skin and their clothes were burning,” he said. “There were lower extremity body parts all over the place . . . and all of the wounds were extreme gaping holes, with the flesh hanging from the bones – if there was any bone left.”
Back in his cab, Belhoucet said he mistook the first blast for an earthquake. Fearing that a building might collapse, he considered running. But then people came pouring down the street and he beckoned a family into the car. He grabbed the wheel, then turned momentarily to ask where they wanted to go.
Only then did he notice the man’s face, dripping with blood.
Now, three days after the bombing, investigators had made significant headway in deciphering the method behind the terror.
Armies of white-suited agents had spent many hours sifting through the evidence littering Boylston Street, climbing to nearby rooftops to make sure no clue would go overlooked. Their efforts revealed that the bombers had constructed crudely assembled weapons, using plans easily found on the internet, from pressure cookers, wires and batteries popular at hobby shops. But investigators still did not know why. And, more importantly, they had only the haziest idea of whom to hold responsible.
It all came down to the photos, culled after a search of hundreds of hours of videotape and photographs gathered from surveillance cameras and spectators. But if they were unable to identify the men, that left the investigators with a difficult choice: They could keep them to law enforcement officers who so far had had no luck, prolonging the search and risking letting the men slip away or attack again. Or they could ask the public for help. But then, the suspects would know the net was closing in.
When they decided to release them, it would only put Bostonians further on edge.
“There was this kind of strange tension,” said Brian Walker of Boston. “You walk by people and you just kind of look at them out of the corner of your eye and check them out. I was conscious that I didn’t feel comfortable walking around with a backpack. It was like I just want to be safe here and everybody is kind of jumpy.”
Suspects No. 1 and 2
In the hours after investigators released the photos of the men known only as Suspect No. 1 and Suspect No. 2, the city went on about the business of a Thursday night, a semblance of normality restored except for the area immediately surrounding the blast site. Restaurants that had closed in the nights just after the bombing reopened for business. At Howl at the Moon, a bar on High Street downtown, the dueling pianists took the stage at 6 p.m., almost as if nothing had changed.
But across the Charles River in Cambridge, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, and his brother Dzhokhar, 19, were arming up.
Later, friends and relatives would recall both as seemingly incapable of terrorism. The brothers were part of an ethnic Chechen family that came to the U.S, in 2002, after fleeing troubles in Kyrgyzstan and then Dagestan, a predominantly Muslim republic in Russia’s North Caucasus. They settled in a working-class part of Cambridge, where the father, Anzor Tsarnaev, opened an auto shop.
Tamerlan could be argumentative and sullen. “I don’t have a single American friend,” he said in an interview for a photo essay on boxing. He was clearly the dominant of the two brothers, a former accounting student with a wife and daughter, who explained his decision to drop out of school by telling a relative, “I’m in God’s business.”
Dzhokhar did well enough in his studies at prestigious Cambridge Rindge and Latin to merit a $2,500 city scholarship for college.
Since the bombing, the younger brother had maintained much of a sense of cool, returning to classes at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth and attending student parties.
On the day of the bombing, he wrote on Twitter: “There are people that know the truth but stay silent & there are people that speak the truth but we don’t hear them cuz they’re the minority.”
But by Tuesday, when he stopped by a Cambridge auto garage, the mechanic, accustomed to long talks with Dzhokhar about cars and soccer, noticed the normally relaxed 19-year-old was biting his nails and trembling.
The mechanic, Gilberto Junior, told Tsarnaev he hadn’t had a chance to work on a Mercedes he’d dropped off for bumper work. “I don’t care. I don’t care. I need the car right now,” Junior says Dzhokhar Tsarnaev told him.
The call to the police dispatcher came in at 10:20 p.m. Thursday: shots fired on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus in Cambridge. Ten minutes later, when police arrived to investigate, they found one of their own, university officer Sean Collier, shot multiple times inside his cruiser at the corner of Vassar and Main.
The 26-year-old, in just a year on patrol, had impressed both his supervisors and the students as particularly dedicated to his work. Just a few days earlier, he’d asked Chief John DiFava for approval to join the board at a homeless shelter, in a bid to steer people away from problems before they developed. Now he was being pronounced dead at the hospital.
Witnesses reported seeing two men. Fifteen minutes later, another call came in of an armed carjacking by two men, not far away on Third Street. After half an hour, the carjackers had let the owner go, but not before using the victims’ bank card to pocket $800 from an ATM and telling the man they’d just killed a police officer and that they were responsible for the bombing, Watertown police Chief Edward Deveau said.
Investigators had their break.
The carjacking victim had left his cell phone in the Mercedes SUV, enabling police to track its location via GPS, Deveau said. It was past 11 p.m. now, and as the car sped west into Watertown, one of Deveau’s officers spotted it and gave chase, realizing too late he was alone against the brothers driving two separate cars. When both vehicles came to a halt, Deveau said, the men stepped out and opened fire. Three more officers arrived, then two who were off-duty, fending off a barrage. When a Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority officer, Richard Donohue, pulled up behind them, a bullet to the groin severed an artery and he went down.
“We’re in a gunfight, a serious gunfight,” Deveau said. “Rounds are going and then all of the sudden they see something being thrown at them and there’s a huge explosion. I’m told it’s exactly the same type of explosive that we’d seen that happened at the Boston Marathon. The pressure cooker lid was found embedded in a car down the street.”
As the firefight continued, Tamerlan Tsarnaev moved closer and closer to the officers, until less than 10 feet separated them, continuing to shoot even as he was hit by police gunfire, until finally he ran out of ammunition and officers tackled him, Deveau said. But as they struggled to cuff the older brother, he said Dzhokhar Tsarnaev jumped back in the second vehicle.
“All of the sudden somebody yelled ‘Get out of the way!’ and they (the officers) look up and here comes the black SUV that’s been hijacked right at them. They dove out of the way at the last second and he ran over his brother, dragged him down the street and then fled,” he said.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev was rushed to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
A few blocks over, Samantha England, was heading to bed when she heard what sounded like fireworks. When she called 911, the dispatcher told her to stay inside, lock the doors and get down on the floor. She reached for the TV, trying to figure out what was going on.
“As soon as they said it on the news, that’s when we started to freak out and realize they were here,” England said.
But after all the gunfire, the younger Tsarnaev had vanished. Officers, their guns drawn, moved through the neighborhood of wood-frame homes and cordoned off the area as daylight approached.
At Kayla DiPaolo’s house on Oak Street, she scrambled to find shelter in the door frame of her bedroom as a bullet came through the side paneling on her front door. At 8:30 a.m., Jonathan Peck heard helicopters circling above his house on Cypress Street and looked outside to see about 50 armed men.
“It seemed like Special Forces teams were searching every nook and cranny of my yard,” he said.
Unable to find Tsarnaev, authorities announced they were shutting down not just Watertown, but all of Boston and many of its suburbs, affecting more than 1 million people. Train service was cancelled. Taxis were ordered off the streets. In central Boston, streets normally packed with office workers turned eerily silent.
“It feels like we’re living in a movie. I feel like the whole city is in a standstill right now and everyone is just glued to the news,” Rebecca Rowe of Boston said.
But as the hours went by, and the house-to-house search continued, investigators found no sign of their quarry. Finally, at about 6:30 p.m., they announced the shutdown had been lifted.
Across Watertown, people ventured out for the first time in hours to enjoy the day’s unusually warm air. They included a man who took a few steps into his Franklin Street backyard, then noticed the tarp on his boat was askew. He lifted it, looked inside and saw a man covered in blood.
He rushed back in to call the police. And again, the neighborhood was awash in officers in fatigues and armed with machine guns. The man hunkered down inside the boat, later identified as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, traded fire with the police for more than an hour, until at last, they were able to subdue him.
About 8:45 p.m., the police scanners crackled:
“Suspect in custody.”
On the Twitter account of the Boston Police Department, the news was trumpeted to a city that had been holding its collective breath during five days of fear: “CAPTURED!!! The hunt is over. The search is done. The terror is over. And justice has won.”