Because once again the past 24 hours have been so chaotic, with incredible news coverage (but perhaps, daresay, an overload?), I’m writing what happened in Boston on April 19th following the MIT shooting and Watertown shooting.
For the hours immediately following the MIT shooting, read my other post, “What Happened In Boston Last Night.” I’m going to begin with the morning. I was awaken around 5:43 AM with yet another Harvard emergency text message that read, “Due to search for dangerous suspect, HUPD advises people near Cambridge/Allston campus to remain indoors. Updates to follow.” I drifted back to a fitful sleep as more texts came. At 8:56 AM, I received another text, alerting that Harvard University was closed today and to stay indoors.
Finally getting up around 10 AM, I immediately checked the news, hoping to see progress on the previous night’s remaining suspect. Confirming my suspicions, I found that news sources had tied the MIT shooting to the Boston Marathon bombers. To my surprise, they had succeeded in identifying both suspects and the media was rapidly searching for all the information they could get on the two: Dzhokar Tsarnaev and Tamerlan Tsarnaev. I was honestly shocked that they were brothers – but what immediately crossed my mind was that (and I could be wrong) made them less likely to be part of highly organized crime.
There were so many articles about every single detail the media could find on the boys, and interviews of people who knew them. Dzhokar, the suspect at large, appeared to be more “normal.” Many people liked him, he was popular, played sports. One boy who attended high school with him still couldn’t believe Dzhokar could be guilty of such crimes. Others were astounded that a nineteen year old could perpetrate such crimes. He’s just a boy, people gasped — and a such a pretty face. It’s not a face you typically associate with evil. A friend told me they were calling him the Babyfaced Bomber. I even learned that Dzhokar occasionally worked as a lifeguard in the past for Harvard. Tamerlan, the older twenty-six year old brother, on the other hand immediately fit the stereotype: loner, reclusive, no one seemed to know him. He was an Islamic extremist and had recently been in Russia.
The rest of the day passed in a sort of daze. All of Boston was on lockdown. People were encouraged to stay indoors and not open your doors to any police officer. Dzhokar was believed to be in Watertown, armed and dangerous – potentially with bomb for suicide. Boston became a bit of a ghost town. People tweeted photos of the hollow, empty streets. To be clear, we were not forbidden to leave our homes, but it was a matter of safety.
During the first half of the day (up until around noon), there would be police cars and their sirens every ten minutes. After noon, it became less and less. I listened to the news off and on while following some live feeds. Soon the reports and interviews with the Tsarnaev family came out. The uncles (note there are two, but the media seems to present them as one uncle) offered what seemed to be a “right” response – they decried their nephews’ crimes and asked that they come out of hiding and ask for forgiveness from the victims and America. (Video of one uncle who calls his nephews “losers” here.)
The other family members, however, seem to be paranoid and in a state of denial. The father calls Dzhorkar “an angel” and, while he asked his son to come out of hiding, he threatened that if his son was killed that “all hell would break loose.” Moreover, he asserted that if Dzhorkar is killed, this clearly shows that his sons were framed and that this was a government conspiracy.
His aunt in Toronto took a similar approach, saying her nephews were “good boys” and were being framed. In fact, on Thursday when the FBI released videos of two “people of interest,” the aunt quickly recognized her nephews and called the FBI — to tell them they had the wrong people. She continues to throw her knowledge of law as an excuse for not seeing any real evidence that damned the Tsarnaev brothers (like, I don’t know, being armed, killing an MIT policeman, shooting police in Watertown, and throwing homemade bombs resembling those of the Boston Marathon). To be a little more understanding to this family, they are reeling from this news that their beloved family members could be terrorists.
During the time between 12-6 PM, there were small updates. They released that the brothers had not been a part of the armed robbery of 7-Eleven, but it is in fact true that they visited the 7-Eleven. There was a search for a green car, only to have this search cancelled. There were several controlled bomb detentions. The cops stormed the brothers’ homes and found more explosives.
The day continued without many real updates on the manhunt, however. Police continued to scour the zoned-off area in Watertown without much luck. There was a press conference around 6 PM, where officials were clearly frustrated with the lack of progress in finding Dzhorkar, the suspect at large. At this point, the search was looking rather bleak and they believed Dzhorkar made it outside of Watertown. Therefore, they lifted the lockdown at around 6:30 PM. I received a text from Harvard informing me: “State lifts stay-indoors request. MBTA and Harvard Shuttle service resuming. Heightened security continuing on campus. Please remain vigilant.”
Not twenty minutes later, police cars whizzed past Harvard with great urgency that hadn’t been seen since last night. Soon there were news of gunfire in Watertown.
Apparently what happened was after the lockdown lift, a man wandered out to his backyard. He noticed blood on or coming from his boat. He apparently climbed up the ladder, lifted the white tarp that covers the boat to find a body. Rushing back indoors, he immediately called the police. There was a helicopter that used thermal heating scans that confirmed the presence of a body on the boat. Police rushed over and there was gunfire (I hear it came from both parties, meaning that Dzhorkar was indeed armed and loaded — but listening to the videos of the shooting it is hard to tell).
Because there were many people still in their homes, police officers first evacuated the premises. There are heartwarming photos of officers carrying children, women, and the elderly away. This evacuation was caused by a fear that Dzhorkar had bombs left, potentially one attached to himself. There remained tense waiting as the police officers brought drones to scope out the area for bombs. They also weren’t sure whether or not this was actually Dzhorkar yet, or whether the suspect was alive.
Around 8:15 PM, there were flash bombs set off. Flash bombs are bombs that create great flashes in attempt to distract. It was unclear whether or not the police force or the suspect had thrown them, but I believe it was the police force. A helicopter using the heat thermal scan saw the suspect sit up, which confirmed that he was still alive. The police and SWAT teams called for the suspect to come out with his hands in the air, but he didn’t.
At some point, the police “blew the top off the boat” (as reported by the Boston Globe feed). What this means, I believe, is they used something to literally blow the tarp off the boat. This allowed the police to communicate and see the suspect, confirming that it was indeed Dzhorkar. Many did not believe he would go down without a fight, so police were extremely wary of approaching him. Moreover, he was suffering from injuries acquired during the Watertown shooting the night previous (he had been shot twice).
It was not until 8:45 PM, when a negotiator came in and the police captured and apprehended him. It’s amazing that he was caught without any more bloodshed! He was then brought to a hospital in serious condition, suffering from blood loss. Once he is in a stable condition, he will no doubt he heavily questioned and we will finally get some answers.
Bostonians cheered for the police force, FBI, SWAT, and law officials, crying, “USA!” Astoundingly, 22.5 hours after Thursday’s crazy and terrifying events, Boston could breathe safely once more.