Second Boston bombing suspect had eluded capture for four days


Updated Friday, April 19, 9:00 p.m.

In a day-long search throughout Eastern Massachusetts, the 19-year-old suspect in the Boston bombing was taken into custody  Friday after his brother was killed in a shoot out with police in the early hours of the morning. Clearly disappointed in their efforts to locate the fugitive, law enforcement officials lifted the lockdown on the entire Boston area and told residents to remain vigil.

“We do not have an apprehension of our suspect,” Timothy Alben, superintendent of Mass. State Police, said in a press conference Friday evening. ”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 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.

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. However, Alben says he believes that the suspect remains in the state.

Millions of nervous residents spent the day indoors as police officers combed through neighborhoods door-by-door in a massive manhunt for Tsarnaev, who is wanted in connection with the Boston Marathon bombings. Three people died and over a 170 were wounded in the twin bombings Monday.

Boston Police searched the house in Cambridge where the brothers lived, and covered 20 streets in the Watertown area. Police will remain on the streets, but Albin said “we’re going to draw back our tactical teams.”

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.

The violent, night-long chase began shortly after the two suspects 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, NBC News’ Pete Williams reports.

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, 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was killed. A resident said he saw 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 are 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 tell NBC News. The fugitive 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.”

The FBI released photos Thursday of the brothers, who are suspected of carrying out the twin bombings at the Boston Marathon Monday which left three dead and more than 170 injured. Within hours of the photos becoming public, the brothers were recognized on a surveillance video at the convenience store.

A bomb squad was assessing and removing any potentially explosive devices that may remain on the residential street in Watertown.

Watertown resident Andrew Kitzenberg described a raging battle that took place outside his house early morning Friday between the brothers and police. The gunmen used “bombs that looked like grenades,” Kitzenberg told NBC News.

Kitzenberg said he saw two people taking cover between a black Mercedes SUV and a sedan and watched them shooting 70 or 80 yards toward six Watertown police vehicles.

“They engaged in gunfire for a few minutes,” Kitzenberg said. “They were also utilizing bombs, which sounded and looked like grenades, while engaging in the gunfight.”

“It was a firefight,” he added. “There was a long exchange of gunfire.” A bullet from the gunbattle lodged in the wall of Kitzenberg’s apartment, he said.

One of the shooters, now known to be the older brother, then ran toward the officers.

Kitzenberg said he saw him fall to the ground but was unable to tell whether he had been tackled or shot. Both brothers also wore backpack, he said. The younger brother then drove the SUV through the line of police cars at the end of the street, he added. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was seen in the FBI photos wearing a white baseball cap backwards, tossed additional explosives out the window as he sped away, said Kitzenberg.

The violence began around 10:30 p.m. Thursday when a campus officer at MIT responded to a report of a disturbance near Vassar and Main Streets, Middlesex County District Attorney Michael Pelgro said in a statement early Friday.  The officer, later identified as Sean Collier, 26,  was shot in the head and taken to Massachusetts General Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Around midnight, MIT police determined that the shooter was no longer on campus and that students could resume normal activities.

An hour later, scores of police converged on a neighborhood in Watertown– several miles from the MIT campus. The National Guard secured the perimeter of the neighborhood and  the FBI was on scene.

Area colleges are closed, including Boston College, Harvard University, and Boston University. All Boston public school activities have been suspended. Boston’s Logan Airport remains open. Despite the lockdown, people in worksites and offices are encouraged to return to their homes by car or taxi, said Kurt Schwartz, director of the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency. Taxi service has been restored in Boston.

Second Boston bombing suspect had eluded capture for four days