A massive and intense manhunt that paralyzed the Boston area ended Friday night when police found Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 19-year-old suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings who had eluded capture for four days. Tsarnaev was found in a backyard in Watertown–a Boston suburb that cops and FBI agents had searched and locked down 24 hours before. A tip led police to the house after a neighbor reported seeing blood on a tarp-covered boat in the backyard. The police swarmed in; they exchanged gunfire with the suspect and then took the injured man into custody.
Boston Police tweeted that the hunt had come to an end. “The terror is over. And justice has won.” Tzarnaev’s older brother Tamerlan, who was also a suspect in the twin bombings that killed three people and injured more than 170, died earlier Friday in a shoot out with police.
Gov. Deval Patrick said that questions remain in the investigation but said “It’s a night where we’re all going to rest easy.”
Tsarnaev was taken to an area hospital by ambulance and will remain in the federal custody of the FBI. “Once he is treated and can answer questions, they will start questioning him with the goal of putting him on trial,” NBC News Correspondent Pete Williams reported. Tzarnaev was not read his Miranda rights, under a “public safety exception” that allows authorities to question a suspect for 48 hours before the Miranda rule applies.
The Tsarnaev brothers had been on the run since Monday but were cornered by the police in Watertown late Thursday night. Tamerlan had an explosive device strapped to him when he died early Friday morning after an exchange of gunfire with police. Dzhokhar left the scene in a car but later fled on foot. His capture late Friday brought an end to a chaotic series of events.
Less than a hour before the end of the bloody saga, Boston police had lifted the stay-indoors order that had emptied Boston streets, saying they did not know of Dzhokhar’s whereabouts. He seemed to have slipped through their net completely, although officials said at a news conference they did believe he was still in Massachusetts. The news conference was held just blocks from where he was ultimately discovered.
Bostonians reacted with relief and gratitude that life could return to normal after a week of horrific events that began with the Patriots Day attack that killed an 8-year-old boy and two young women, and grievously injured dozens of others.
With one of the suspects taken alive, there may be answers to some of the questions that have swirled since Monday afternoon. Law enforcement officials will examine how the brothers, with Muslim roots in Chechnya, may have planned and carried out the attack. Of concern is whether anyone else may have been involved in the attacks. Those answers could help improve security measures and counterterrorism efforts in the future.
“Obviously tonight there are many unanswered questions,” said President Obama. “Why did young men who grew up and studied here as part of our communities and our country resort to such violence? How did they plan and carry out these attacks–and did they receive any help?” He said authorities would “investigate any associations these terrorists may have had.” And he warned against the “temptation to latch onto information or jump to conclusions…That’s why we take care not to rush to judgment–not about motivations or individuals, and certainly not about entire groups of people.”
“We do not have an apprehension of our suspect,” Timothy Alben, superintendent of Mass. State Police, said in a press conference Friday evening, less than an hour before the suspect was found. ”We cannot continue to lock down an entire city or an entire state.”
A mere 18 hours after police had the suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, in their sights during the fire fight on the streets of Watertown, Mass., he had managed to slip away. Although the FBI, which is leading the investigation, pledged unlimited resources, the Watertown police chief said his forces had not had enough manpower to set up a perimeter then.
Earlier Friday, Alben and other officials seemed to know little about where Tsarnaev headed after he fled the scene on foot. Authorities “followed a number of leads that took us various places in Eastern Massachusetts and none of these have been fruitful,” he said. But by the end of the night, with Tsarnaev in custody, Alben was relieved. “We’re exhausted but we have a victory here.”
Millions of nervous residents spent the day indoors as police officers combed through neighborhoods door-by-door. Boston Police searched the house in Cambridge where the brothers lived, and covered 20 streets in the Watertown area. But they had not seen him at the house where he was eventually discovered.
Ruslan Tsarni, a man who identified himself at the suspects’ uncle, said he was ashamed of his nephews. Asked by reporters outside his home what could have motivated the suspects, Tsarni said he did not believe they were affiliated with any political or religious group. He described them as “losers” who were unable to fit in.
The uncle said the family is Muslim and has roots in Chechnya. “Of course we are ashamed,” he said. “I love this country.”
Tsarni said he had not spoken with his brother, the father of the two suspects. He urged his nephew to turn himself in. He confirmed that the family moved to the United States and settled in Cambridge in 2003.
A violent, night-long chase began Thursday night, shortly after the brothers went to a convenience store around 10 p.m. and then allegedly shot and killed an MIT police officer. They later allegedly hijacked a Mercedes SUV and drove toward the Boston suburb of Watertown. The suspects let the owner of the car go unharmed at a gas station after they stole his debit card and tried to withdraw funds from at least three ATMs. Only the second withdrawal was successful, for $800, before they exceeded the man’s daily withdrawal limit. The car owner said the two suspects told him they had shot and killed a campus policeman and that they were the marathon bombers, Williams reported.
Then a chase ensued with police. The brothers threw explosive devices out of the car and then engaged in a gun battle with police on the street of a heavily populated neighborhood early Friday morning, said witnesses. A transit officer was wounded in the exchange of fire.
At some point the older brother was killed. A resident said he saw Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who had been seen in FBI photos wearing a black baseball cap the day of the bombing, run towards authorities and fall on the street. He had an explosive device strapped to his chest. His 19-year-old brother escaped in a car, which he later abandoned and fled on foot.
Richard Wolfe, the chief of emergency medicine at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston, said Tsarnaev died of multiple wounds—a combination of blast injuries and several gunshot wounds. “He arrived here in cardiac arrest,” he said.
The brothers were residents of Cambridge—home to Harvard, Boston University, MIT and Emerson University—but were not students. Tamerlain Tsarnaev became a legal permanent resident in 2007, authorities told NBC News. Dzhokhar was born in Kyrgyzstan, authorities tell NBC News. His arrived with his family in the United States in 2003, his uncle said.
“My son is a true angel,” said Anzor Tsarnaev, the father of the two bombers, of his younger son. He spoke to the Associated Press in a phone interview from Russia. “He is such an intelligent boy. We expected him to come on holidays here.”
Desperate for the public’s help in the investigation, the FBI released photos Thursday of the brothers, calling them suspects in the twin bombings at the Boston Marathon.