Surviving suspect in Boston Marathon bombing taken into custody, in serious condition

Posted April 19, 2013, at 7:13 p.m.
Last modified April 20, 2013, at 6:05 a.m.

WATERTOWN, Mass. — Police captured a 19-year-old ethnic Chechen suspected of carrying out the Boston Marathon bombings with his older brother after an intense daylong manhunt on Friday that closed down the city and turned a working-class suburb into a virtual armed camp.

The break in the case sent waves of relief and jubilation through Boston and the suburb of Watertown, where armored vehicles roamed the streets and helicopters flew overhead through the day.

Residents and police officers cheered and clapped when the suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was caught after an exchange of gunfire with police. A Massachusetts State Police spokesman said Tsarnaev was bleeding and in serious condition in a Boston hospital. He had been hiding in the stern of a boat parked in the backyard of a house in Watertown, police said.

A resident called police after seeing blood on the boat.

Tsarnaev, is one of two brothers believed to have carried out Monday’s attack, which killed three people and injured 176.

President Barack Obama told reporters at the White House after the suspect’s capture that questions remained from the bombings, including whether the two suspects received any help.

The older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, was killed on Thursday night in a shootout with police less than a mile from where Friday night’s capture took place. The FBI had publicized pictures of the two men on Thursday and asked the public for help in identifying them.

Hours after the photos were released, a furious sequence of events erupted, including the fatal shooting of a police officer on the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The night culminated in a firefight in Watertown during which police say the brothers threw bombs at officers. Tamerlan suffered fatal wounds, while the younger brother escaped on foot.

The brothers had not been under surveillance as possible militants, U.S. government officials said. But the FBI said in a statement on Friday that in 2011 it interviewed Tamerlan at the request of a foreign government, which it did not identify.

“The request stated that it was 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 statement said.

The matter was closed because interviews with Tamerlan and family members “did not find any terrorism activity, domestic or foreign.”

At the same time that police were pursuing Dzhokhar on Friday night, police in New Bedford, Massachusetts, 60 miles south of Boston said three other people had been taken into custody for questioning about Monday’s bombings. They were later released, police said.

People in Boston reacted mostly with glee to the news of Dzhokhar’s capture. On a warm evening, people came out of their homes in and around Kenmore Square, whooping and cheering and simply running together in large groups, holding hands. Some waved U.S. flags.

The family of Martin Richard, an 8-year-old boy killed in the blast, cheered his capture. “Tonight, our community is once again safe from these two men,” the family said in a statement.

Authorities were asked at a news conference on Friday night why authorities did not immediately read the suspect his Miranda rights.

Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz said, “There is a public safety exception” that was applied to Tsarnaev regarding the warning.

Police cars and armored vehicles surrounded a residence at 67 Franklin St. in Watertown shortly after authorities announced they were lifting a shelter-in-place order imposed on the entire city of Boston.

Authorities cordoned off a section of Watertown and told residents not to leave their homes or answer the door as officers in combat gear scoured a 20-block area. Two Black Hawk helicopters circled the area. SWAT teams moved through in formation, leaving an officer behind to ensure that searched homes remain secure, a law enforcement official said.

The normally traffic-clogged streets of Boston were empty on Friday as the city went into lockdown after a bloody night of shooting and explosions. Public transportation had been suspended and air space restricted. Universities, including Harvard and MIT, closed after police ordered residents to remain at home.

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick said the “stay-in-place” order for Boston had been lifted and mass transit reopened as police pressed their search for Tsarnaev shortly before police converged on Franklin Street.

The Boston Red Sox and the Boston Bruins both postponed their scheduled games on Friday, citing the citywide investigation.

Details emerged on Friday about the brothers, including their origins in the predominantly Muslim regions of Russia’s Caucasus, which have experienced two decades of violence since the fall of the Soviet Union. The fugitive described himself on a social network as a minority from a region that includes Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia.

A man who told reporters he was an uncle of the brothers said they came to the United States in the early 2000s and settled in the Cambridge, Mass., area.

Ruslan Tsarni, who lives in suburban Washington and said he had not spoken to the brothers since 2009, said the bombings “put a shame on our family. It put a shame on the entire Chechen ethnicity.”

“I say what I think what’s behind it — being losers,” Tsarni told reporters in suburban Washington. “Not being able to settle themselves and thereby hating everyone who did.”

In separate interviews, the parents of the Tsarnaev brothers said they believed their sons were incapable of carrying out the bombings. Others remembered the brothers as friendly and respectful youths who never stood out or caused alarm.

“Somebody clearly framed them. I don’t know who exactly framed them, but they did. They framed them. And they were so cowardly that they shot the boy dead,” father Anzor Tsarnaev said in an interview with Reuters in Dagestan’s provincial capital, Makhachkala, clasping his head in despair.

The mother, Zubeidat Tsaraeva, speaking in English, told CNN: “It’s impossible, impossible, for both of them to do such things, so I am really, really, really telling that this is a setup.”

The FBI said the twin blasts were caused by bombs in pressure cookers and carried in backpacks that were left near the marathon finish line as thousands of spectators gathered.

A university police officer was killed, a transit police officer was wounded, and the suspects carjacked a vehicle Thursday night before leading police on a chase that led to Tamerlan Tsarnaev being shot dead.

The Boston Herald identified the MIT police officer who was killed as 26-year-old Sean Collier of Somerville, Mass., who had been on the job for a little more than year. Richard H. Donahue Jr., 33, a MBTA officer, reportedly was wounded.

Witnesses described a chaotic scene of fireballs, screeching police vehicles and law enforcement officers pointing assault weapons. Some witnesses said they saw men throwing grenades at the officers and heard “a rain of bullets.” Witnesses said the suspects were firing out of their vehicle.

“During the exchange of the gunfire, we believe that one of the suspects was struck and ultimately taken into custody,” Alben said.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev died of multiple injuries including gunshot wounds and trauma, said Dr. Richard Wolfe, chief of emergency medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Barack Obama praised the law enforcement agencies for their cooperation with each other.

“We’ve closed an important chapter in this tragedy,” he said, adding that the investigation into the bombing and ensuing conflicts would continue to determine if there are any connections to terrorist organizations.

“All in all, this has been a tough week,” the president said. “But we’ve seen the character of our country once more.”

The events elicited a response from Moscow condemning terrorism and from the Russian-installed leader of Chechnya, who criticized police in Boston for killing an ethnic Chechen and blamed the violence on his upbringing in the United States.

“They grew up and studied in the United States and their attitudes and beliefs were formed there,” Ramzan Kadyrov said in comments posted online. “Any attempt to make a connection between Chechnya and the Tsarnaevs is in vain.”

The brothers had been in the United States for several years and were believed to be legal immigrants, according to U.S. government sources. Neither had been known as a potential security threat, a law enforcement official said on Friday.

A Russian language social networking site bearing Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s name paid tribute to Islamic websites and to those calling for Chechen independence. The author identified himself as a 2011 graduate of Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, a public school in Cambridge, Mass.

He said he went to primary school in Makhachkala, capital of Dagestan, a province in Russia that borders on Chechnya, and listed his languages as English, Russian and Chechen.

His “World view” was listed as “Islam” and his “Personal priority” as “career and money.”

He posted links to videos of fighters in Syria’s civil war and to Islamic Web pages with titles such as “Salamworld, my religion is Islam” and “There is no God but Allah, let that ring out in our hearts.”

He also had links to pages calling for independence for Chechnya, a region of Russia that lost its bid for independence after two wars in the 1990s.

Video posted on NJ.com showed a woman, Alina Tsarnaeva, who described herself as a sister of the suspects.

“I’m not OK, just like anyone else is not OK,” she told reporters from behind the closed door of an apartment in West New York, N.J.

She said the older brother “was a great person. He was a kind and loving man.”

She said of the younger brother, “He’s a child.”

The events stunned the former mill town of Watertown, which has a large Russian-speaking community.

The older brother was seen wearing a dark cap and sunglasses in surveillance images released by the FBI on Thursday. The younger Tsarnaev was shown wearing a white cap in the pictures, taken shortly before Monday’s explosions.

Reporting by Stephanie Simon, Svea Herbst-Bayliss, Jim Bourg, Mark Hosenball, Alex Dobuzinskis, David Bailey, Peter Graff, Aaron Pressman, Daniel Lovering, Ben Berkowitz, Emily Flitter and Mark Hosenball; writing by Grant McCool.

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