Crowds gather at scene of Watertown shootout as Boston marks Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s capture
04/21/2013 6:10 PM
04/21/2013 6:10 PM
College rowing teams raced down the Charles River and news crews began pulling out of the Watertown Mall parking lot Saturday, ceding it to weekend shoppers, as a sense of normalcy began returning to a town terrorized by the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing.
In Boston, the Red Sox returned to Fenway Park for the first time since before the explosions, wearing white shirts that read, “Boston.”
But along Franklin Street, where a wounded and bloodied Dzhokhar Tsarnaev – spotted hiding in a backyard boat by an alert homeowner – surrendered Friday to police after an exchange of gun fire, investigators were still at work, searching for clues while shaken neighborhood residents looked for consolation.
“It was frightening,” said Namita Kiran, 48, who lives on nearby Barnard Avenue and was drawn Saturday to the police barricades, sharing tales with neighbors. Franklin, roped off with police lines, served as a greeting place, as neighbors strolled down to see where the week’s events had culminated, kids, dogs and a cup of coffee in hand.
Like the others, Kiran had spent most of Friday behind closed doors, shades lowered. Watertown police called – twice – at 2 a.m. – to warn her against going outside after a spectacular shootout with two suspects, who’d lobbed explosives and fired scores of shots.
New details emerged throughout the day of the confrontation and search that had paralyzed the region.
Watertown Police Chief Edward Deveaux told CNN Saturday that Dzhokhar Tsarneav probably killed his elder brother, Tamerlan, when he fled during the confrontation with police.
Deveaux said officers had subdued Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who’d run out of ammunition, and were handcuffing him when Dzhokhar roared toward them in his escape vehicle, sending the police scattering and crushing his brother under the wheels. Tamerlan was later pronounced dead at a nearby hospital. The younger Tsarnaev abandoned the vehicle, and disappeared into the darkness on foot.
The intensity of the confrontation was startlingly evident on Saturday in the Watertown neighborhood where the Tsarnaev brothers faced off with police.
Bullet holes marred at least four houses along Laurel Street, which was pitted and blackened where the Tsarnaevs had hurled explosives at police. Broken glass littered the street.
Shrapnel tears could be seen on the third-floor soffit of one house where a family with a three-week-old infant had huddled during the battle. The home’s fence was riddled with bullets holes.
“I don’t even know if it’s settled in yet,” said James Floyd, 36, who moved to the house five months ago from Columbia, S.C. “The fact that no one got hurt is unbelievable” – a reference to the street’s residents.
A blood stain about 30-feet long, where Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s body was dragged, remained visible on the pavement, much bigger at the end than the beginning. Dozens of curiosity seekers milled about the street.
It was area residents’ first chance to view the scene, which touched off a door-to-door search by thousands of police officers and an unprecedented region-wide lockdown that halted public transportation and business throughout the Boston area.
Many Watertown neighbors had their entire homes swept, with police aware that the town is so friendly that many people don’t bother to lock their basement doors. At one point, police searched Kiran’s backyard shed.
Nervous, Kiran, persuaded her husband to inspect their basement and to check on an elderly neighbor.
“We began to wonder when it would end,” she said.
Shortly after police lifted the order to stay at home early Friday evening, Franklin Street homeowner David Henneberry ventured outside his house. He noticed something suspicious about the tarp on the boat docked in his yard and drew closer for inspection.
“He saw some blood and a body lying down,” said neighbor Joe Morrissey. “He told me he jumped up, dialed 911 and there was a cavalcade of police.”
Neighbors say the boat under tarp is a familiar sight in the backyard – it can be seen easily by anyone glancing up the driveway – but that Henneberry keeps a low profile.
“He’s an awesome fellow, a great gentleman,” said Frank Farrell, the safety officer at the nearby Watertown Yacht Club, where Henneberry is a member.
In his interview with CNN, Deveaux said police responded promptly to Henneberry’s call. They shut down the street and evacuated several homes. After an initial exchange of gun fire with Tsarnaev, they assaulted him with explosives known as flash bangs, meant to disorient, and a negotiator on the second floor of the house began talking to him.
Deveaux said police were worried that Tsarnaev was wearing an explosive vest – as his brother had been the night before. It took the negotiator 20 to 30 minutes to persuade the 19-year-old to lift his shirt so that authorities could see his chest.
“Once we saw that, we felt comfortable enough to send some officers with tactical equipment to go in and grab him and pull him away from the boat so he wouldn’t be able to have anything,” Deveaux said in the CNN interview.
He noted that as police were talking with Tsarnaev, a hovering state police helicopter was keeping tabs on the wounded man with a heat seeking device that could detect every movement.
It was the Watertown’s second round with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. The first came when he and his brother, who had allegedly shot and killed a Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus police officer, careened into the sleepy streets of Watertown in two vehicles, including a Mercedes SUV that they had carjacked.
Watertown police were able to track that car, Deveaux said, and knew what streets it was on because the carjacking victim’s cell phone was still in the vehicle. They knew they were tracking the Boston Marathon bombing suspects because they had bragged about their role to the carjacking victim, Deveaux said: "We did the Boston Marathon bombing and we killed a police officer," the chief said the victim had quoted them as saying.
Deveaux said a Watertown officer on duty spotted the two cars at about 12:30 a.m. and called for backup. But before other officers could arrive, the brothers jumped out of the cars and opened fired. “They came out shooting,” Deveaux said.
They pair carried handguns; a rifle, which Deveaux described as a long arm, was found in the car.
The police officer, still the sole responder, reversed his car to give himself some distance from the gunfire, as several more officers pulled up.
Deveaux said a shift had just ended and two off-duty officers on their way home responded to the call. Altogether, six police officers engaged in the gunfight, Deveaux said, estimating that there were more 200 shots fired over five to 10 minutes, in addition to an uncounted number of pipe bombs and other explosives that the two men were lighting and throwing.
One of those explosives was a pressure cooker bomb similar to the ones used in the marathon bombs; Deveaux said its remains were found embedded in a car down the street. Two devices that didn’t explode were also found, he said.
“How the Watertown police aren’t attending a funeral of our own based on what happened on that street over that period of time is just talent, guts and glory that my officers did,” Deveaux said.
He said the gunfight was largely over by the time “the whole greater Boston area” was arriving to help, though one of the earliest to arrive, a Metropolitan Boston Transit Authority officer, was seriously wounded.
Deveaux offered an almost cinematic description of Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s final moments. He said the 26-year-old amateur boxer had begun walking down the street, firing at the Watertown police, when he ran out of ammunition. A Watertown officer tackled him, and police began to handcuff him.
But Deveaux said his officers suddenly saw the carjacked car aimed at them and dived out of the way. That’s when the younger Tsarnaev ran over his brother and dragged him “a short distance down the street.”
With Dzhokhar Tsarnaev under arrest – he remained in serious condition Saturday – investigators were still left to piece together the events that had left four people dead in five days of carnage – three killed by the two bombs that exploded along the marathon’s route on Monday and MIT officer Sean Collier, shot dead Thursday night.
Fifty-three people injured in Monday’s bombing were still in the hospital, three in serious condition, and the MBTA officer wounded in the shootout remained hospitalized.
Deveaux said his department has three cruisers “that will never drive again that are shot up. There’s a lot of damage.”
And as investigators piece together what prompted the brothers to target the marathon, they are also looking at how they got the weapons, Deveaux said.
“We have to figure that out,” he said. “We have to find out more about this. And we will as the days go on.”
On Franklin Street, too, they sought answers. Joy Arcolano missed the marathon for one of the first times in a decade on Monday because she and her husband wanted to seed the front lawn at their Franklin Street home. On Friday, they huddled at home as helicopters hovered and police exchanged gun fire with a fugitive.
“There’s all these things you’re supposed to do in a suburb,” she said, standing on her porch Saturday morning. “Not crouching down in a spare bedroom waiting for the gun fire to be over.”
But Arcolano said they’ll be back at next year’s race – held every year on a state holiday known as Patriots Day.
“We’re determined to keep it as the awesome special day it is,” she said.