The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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April 20, 2013

Suspect in Boston bombings captured

Gunfire precedes finding him in a boat in suburban backyard

BOSTON — Police pinned down the Boston Marathon terror suspect in a cabin cruiser boat in a suburban Watertown backyard Friday night, exchanging gunfire before bringing him out wounded but alive, ending a day-long massive manhunt.

“We got him,” tweeted Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, adding later:  “I am so happy. The people of greater Boston can sleep tonight.”

The capture occurred two hours after authorities held a news conference to announce the suspect, 19-year-old Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev, had eluded the dragnet operation launched when he fled from a police shootout late Thursday night.

His older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, also a suspect, died in the shootout that featured 200 rounds of gunfire and the tossing of homemade pipe bombs at police.

The bloody, chaotic drama unfolded when the FBI late Thursday afternoon released video and photo images of the suspects from a surveillance camera at the marathon finish line sites, where two bombs exploded Monday, killing three and wounding 176, many gravely.

Heavily-armed police surrounded the suspect in the backyard boat, convincing him to surrender. Bomb squads were called in to make sure he was not wearing or carrying a hidden explosives. Once police were sure that wasn’t the case, he was handcuffed and taken into custody.

Authorities said he was covered in blood when he emerged from the boat. Col. Timothy Alben, head of the state police, said he was seriously injured and transported by ambulance to a hospital for medical treatment.

Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis said authorities were tipped to the suspect’s location about 7 p.m. by the resident of the home where the boat was parked. He said the homeowner noticed blood on the sidewalk leading to the boat.

“He looked inside and saw a man covered with blood (from the Thursday night shootout),” said Davis. “He called police. He called 911.”

Police used “flash bang” stun grenades to disorient and distract him, Davis said. An FBI hostage rescue team eventually pulled him out of the boat.

Col. Alben said state police flew a helicopter over the area, and infrared images showed that someone was in the boat. He said the capture plan was immediately set in motion.

“We have a suspect in custody,” he said. “We’re exhausted but we have a victory here tonight.”

President Obama, speaking to the nation from the White House, praised police for capturing the suspect, and said the investigation now turns toward determining if any others were involved and what motivated the marathon bombings.

Officials lifted an emergency lockdown of metropolitan Boston at 6 p.m. Friday, 18 hours after it was imposed to protect the public safety. Thousands of residents had been told to stay in their homes and lock their doors.

The announcement allowed businesses to reopen and subways, taxis, commuter trains and buses to roll. They had been closed down throughout the day, turning Boston into a ghost city on a day when streets are normally choked with traffic and sidewalks with shoppers.

Col. Alben told a news conference shortly before the suspect’s capture that a door-to-door search for him in a 20-block neighborhood of Watertown on the western edge of Boston had been fruitless. He later said the capture site was just outside the perimeter of that area.

The manhunt included an army of federal, state and local police officers, assisted by the tactical presence of SWAT teams, K-9 dogs, armored vehicles and helicopters.

Tamerian Tsarnaev, the older brother, died of multiple gunshot and shrapnel wounds in the Thursday night shootout. His brother eluded capture by fleeing the gunfight in a car, running over his brother’s limp body on the ground in the process. Police said he later abandoned the car and fled on foot.

Alben said the brothers exchanged over 200 rounds with the police during the shootout, and left seven explosive devices at the scene. The gunfight lit up the nighttime sky with sights and sounds of a war zone.

“We believe this is to be a terrorist,” said Boston Police Commissioner Davis.

Officials said Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is a student at the University of Massachusetts in Darmouth 40 miles south of Boston. He is a native of the Chechen region of Russia and became a naturalized U.S. citizen last year.

He and his older brother moved to the United States a decade ago with their parents.

The fast-action that led to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s capture started at 10 p.m. in Cambridge, across the Charles River from Boston. Police responding to a 7-11 convenience store robbery near the MIT campus in Kendall Square discovered a campus police officer shot to death in his cruiser. A short time later, a Mercedes SUV carjacking nearby resulted in police pursuit and the shoot-out with the brother suspects in Watertown.

Officials said the suspects threw grenade-like bombs and fired guns at police during and after the chase. A transit policeman helping with the pursuit was seriously wounded. Officers shot Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the older of the two brothers, when he rushed toward them firing a gun. He was later found to have a small bomb strapped to his body. Emergency room doctors said he died from bullet and shrapnel wounds.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, described by the FBI as the “white cap” suspect in FBI video and photo images, fled the shootout by speeding the carjacked SUV through police. Officials said he later fled on foot.

The driver of the stolen SUV told police he was held hostage by the suspects for a half-hour. He said they told him they were the marathon bombers and that they had killed a police officer that night. He was let go unharmed at a gas station after they had withdrawn $800 from an ATM with his bank card.

Authorities identified the MIT police officer killed Thursday night as Sean Collier, 26, of Somerville, Mass. The MBTA Transit Police Officer shot during the gunfight with the suspects is Richard H. Donahue Jr., 33, of Boston. He is in serious condition.

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