Bedlam in Boston: Part #1

© Josh Sager – April 2013

Note—I am a lifelong Boston resident, thus this attack struck close to home, literally. Due to the massive amount of wrong or unconfirmed information flooding the mass media and internet, I chose to hold off on writing any significant articles on this attack until information became more concrete—Note

Beginning with the Patriot’s Day Boston Marathon bombing and ending with a massive shootout four days later, the city of Boston was held under threat of terrorist attack. During these four days, four innocent people were killed, dozens were maimed, and nearly 280 people were sent to the hospital

In this article, I will begin by giving you the basic facts of what happened, then I explain the most recent information available on the suspects, and I will conclude by giving my analysis of the situation in a larger context.

 

The Boston Marathon Bombing

On April 15th, Patriot’s Day, the Boston Marathon was the target of a terrorist bombing. At approximately 2:50PM, two improvised explosive devices were detonated in the crowds gathered near the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

FE_DA_130415BostonExplosions

Made out of pressure cookers and filled with a mixture of shrapnel and black powder, these IEDs were designed to inflict large amounts of traumatic injury to those in the crowd. They were left along the final stretch of the race, in plain black backpacks.

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At final count, 3 people died and 264 people were hospitalized due to injuries sustained in the bombing; many of those injured suffered from a combination of bone and soft tissue trauma, and dozens lost one or more limbs. Ultimately, while relatively few people died in the blast, hundreds will live with long-term debilities and have to completely change their lives due to this one catastrophic event.

In the aftermath of the bombing, numerous federal law enforcement and military groups came into town and everybody was thrown into a state of high-alert. Almost immediately after the bombing, federal investigators shut down the scene of the attack, collected massive amounts of video footage and began investigating.

For three days after the attack, speculation by the public was rampant and the media did nothing to improve the situation by reporting many completely incorrect things. These mistakes were widespread, ranging in severity between the Boston Globe’s reporting of five additional bombs (really just “suspicious packages” that turned out to be nothing) to the New York Post publishing pictures of a completely innocent 17-year old and naming him as the bomber. As nobody had claimed responsibility for the bombings, everybody was wondering who had attacked them, and just whether the bombings were part of a larger series of attacks.

Because the attacks occurred at such a massively recorded event, there was no lack of video or photographic evidence. FBI agents analyzed the media footage from the scene and tried to identify any possible suspects in the bombing—it was this media, when combined with testimony from a victim, which led to the ID of the bombers. Bombing victim Jeff Bauman—the man in the wheelchair with both legs blown off—woke up in the hospital and told authorities that he saw the man who set the bomb. Apparently, the bomber was only feet away from Mr. Bauman when he set the device, so Mr. Bauman was able to immediately identify the suspect to the authorities.

On the afternoon of Thursday, April 18th, the FBI released photos of the suspected bombers, and appeared to be making headway in the case, when the bombers reemerged and started an hours-long confrontation with the police.

 

The Shootout

On the night of Thursday the 18th, the Boston Marathon bombers, now identified as the brothers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, started a night and day of mayhem that would shut down the entire city. Over a period of hours, they got into several shootings with the police, threw numerous bombs at their pursuers, and evaded authorities.

Just after 10PM on Thursday night, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan walked up to a MIT police car and executed Officer Sean Collier at close range with multiple shots from their handguns. As of yet, nobody knows what prompted this attack, but it was the start of a massive chase and hunt. At the time, nobody knew that the shooting was connected to the bombing, but this murder caused the police to scramble to the scene.

After shooting Officer Collier, the Tsarnaev brothers fled from Cambridge to Watertown in two cars—Dzhokhar’s Honda and a hijacked Mercedes. The hijacking occurred in Brighton, on Brighton Avenue, at around 11PM, and involved Tamerlan jumping out of the Honda and getting into the Mercedes at gunpoint. After forcing the driver to drive to Watertown, Tamerlan Tsarnaev released the driver of the Mercedes unharmed—stating that he wouldn’t harm the driver because the man wasn’t an American—and the two brothers loaded several bags into the Mercedes; these bags contained guns, ammo and a variety of IEDs that they would use later that night.

At this point, Joe Reynolds, a Watertown police officer, identified the suspects in the stolen Mercedes as being wanted for the Boston Marathon bombings and attempted to apprehend them. Upon seeing Officer Reynolds approach, the Tsarnaev brothers drove away, firing at the officer with their assault rifles. Officer Reynolds called for backup, scrambling the local police, tactical teams, visiting federal agents, and the military personnel who were stationed in Boston after the attack, and followed the suspects until they began throwing bombs out of their car.

As a personal story: While the police were scrambling, I was near the end of a nighttime bike ride and was biking along the Esplanade (a bike path along the Charles River). The first that I knew that there was an ongoing shooting between police and the bombers was when I saw federal vehicles going to the scene. A police boat was traveling outbound down the Charles River and I heard a loud vehicle coming up behind me to my right, along Memorial Drive—while I initially thought that this vehicle was a garbage truck, I looked over and saw that it was a military armored personnel carrier. After seeing this, I realized that something was wrong and turned on my phone in order to check the news. At the time, the Huffington Post headline was “Warzone in Boston” and I decided that it would be a good idea to go home and see what was going on. For the rest of the night, I ended up staying up in order to follow several news feeds, the police scanner, and the suppositions by social media (most of which were completely false).

While there is no conclusive shot-count for this initial shooting between the police and the bombers, it is estimated that nearly 300 rounds were fired at the police and five bombs were thrown during this chase.

Here is a link to amateur video of this shootout:

After over ten minutes of firefight, Tamerlan Tsarnaev ran out of ammo and was shot by police officers; severely injured, he was then tackled by police and handcuffed. While the elder Tsarnaev brother was cuffed, the younger ran back to the stolen Mercedes and drove down the street, running over and killing his injured and cuffed brother. After driving for several minutes, Dzhokhar got out of the car and ran away into a Watertown neighborhood on foot.

Tsarnaev_timeline

By this time of the conflict, police were flooding into the area from across the state. Literally thousands of police and tactical officers came into the area from as far away as Maine—some estimates indicate that as many as 9000 police officers responded to this situation.

Once Dzhokhar went on foot, he virtually disappeared to the police, despite their massive numbers, and was not seen again until Friday afternoon. Police and federal agents shut a perimeter around the remaining suspect’s position and began a detailed search of the cordoned off area. This search led to a day-long complete shutdown of not just Watertown, but the city of Boston itself.

By the end of the Thursday night’s chaos, 15 police officers were hospitalized due to injuries from the suspects’ guns and bombs—none of them died and only one was critically injured. When combined with the MIT officer whose murder started the night, this brought the casualty count to 16.

 

The Day Boston Stopped

On Friday morning, police had yet to locate Dzhokhar, so the state government decided to impose a shutdown on the entire city. Watertown was almost entirely shut down, as police barred people from driving, businesses were closed, and schools were not in session. Outside of Watertown, cars were allowed out on the roads, but most of the city of Boston was shut down.

Over most of the day, police and federal officials searched the cordoned-off Watertown neighborhood for the second bomber. These officials went house to house, using tactical teams to sweep and clear each structure within the search area. Ultimately, this search did not turn up the suspect and he remained undetected until a civilian noticed blood stains on his boat.

By late in the afternoon on Friday, the shelter in place order over the cities of Watertown and Boston were lifted, finally letting people move about freely. One such person—a resident of Watertown—went out of his home after hours of being trapped inside and noticed significant amounts of blood on the covering for his boat (parked in a rack in his driveway). This Watertown resident reported the blood to the police and they discovered the suspect hiding inside.

boston-bomber-boat-hiding-2 (1)

Police did not search the boat during the initial search because it was located three blocks outside of the search area.

After finding Dzhokhar hiding in the boat, the authorities surrounded it and had a gunfight with him. After approximately half an hour, during which dozens of bullets were fired, the gunfight ended and FBI negotiators began attempting to draw Dzhokhar out of his hiding place. After several minutes of negotiation, the FBI distracted Dzhokhar with flash-bang grenades and successfully extracted him from the boat.

When he was extracted from the boat, Dzhokhar had a severe throat wound, likely due to a self-inflicted gunshot wound that he shied away from, and a bullet wound in his leg from Thursday’s shooting—it is presumed that this wound prevented him from moving and is what led him to shelter in the boat. Dzhokhar was immediately attended to by EMS and was brought to Beth Israel Hospital in serious condition.

Currently, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is in stable condition at Beth Israel Hospital and, while he may never talk again, he has begun to communicate to federal agents via notes.

This article is only part #1 of a 2 part article. Please come back to this site on Friday morning to read the second half of this article, or sign up for automatic updates so that a copy is automatically sent to you when it is released.

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