UPDATE: “Suspect in custody. Officers sweeping the area. Stand by for further info,” tweets Boston Police Department
Admitting they hadn’t been able to find Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev, 19, during several hours of hunting through the Watertown neighborhood today, police lifted the stay-in order for residents and reopened public transportation across the city.
Then minutes after city and police officials left dejected and reporters still had more questions than answers, about two dozen gunshots were heard in a corner of Watertown followed by police vehicles and ambulances zipping to the scene.
Reports said a body was found in a boat — and that the body was moving. Police moved in slowly as more shots or flash grenades to drive the man out of the boat popped off.
Those reportedly sparked a fire on the boat, but a negotiator was still called in to take Tsarnaev into custody to the cheers of local residents.
The bombing suspect had unspecified injuries and blood was reported in the boat. Officials said he was in “serious” condition.
And in New Bedford, Mass., two men and a women were taken into custody by the FBI in connection with the case when a search warrant was served on a home near the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, where Tsarnaev is a student.
There were a few shockers at the press conference: First, Tsarnaev and his older brother, Tamerlan, 26, did not rob a 7-Eleven in their crime spree last night, but were caught on the store’s surveillance camera near the time of a robbery by another suspect.
In the gunfight in which Tamerlan was killed, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev gave 15 officers minor wounds in a hail of gunfire and explosives.
And when he left the fight, he fled on foot. Authorities don’t know if he managed to get another car to get out of the area, but officers couldn’t cordon off the neighborhood in time and he presumably slipped out. Throughout the day, former classmates of the college student described the ethnic Chechen as an excellent athlete.
“We do not have an apprehension of our suspect this afternoon but we will have one,” Massachusetts State Police Superintendent Timothy Alben told reporters, adding they’d conducted “limited” home searches over an area of 20 streets.
They also followed up leads that Tsarnaev was elsewhere in eastern Massachusetts, to no avail, along with cleaning up unexploded ordinance the suspect spread through the neighborhood.
As a result, tactical teams were pulled back and state police agreed to conduct extra patrols in the battlefield of Watertown for the next two to three days.
“Unfortunately we don’t have a positive result at this point,” Alben said.
Gov. Deval Patrick (D-Mass.) warned residents that even though safety precautions were being lifted “there is still a very, very dangerous individual at large.”
‘We were where we were on Monday night or Tuesday morning with one exception — one of the suspects is dead,” the governor said. Though the “investigation has continued to develop,” he said, it would be “prudent to tell people you can get back out as long as you’re vigilant.”
When asked where Alben is, he said, “I don’t have any direct knowledge that he’s in the Boston area but I don’t think he’d get much further — his ties are here.”
“I believe he’s still in Massachusetts,” the chief added.
He wouldn’t speculate on whether the brothers were headed to another attack site last night. “It’s clear to us that there are explosives that they had last night.. beyond that, what their intentions were would be a matter of supposition,” Alben said.
“We cannot continue to lock down an entire city or entire state,” he continued. “…We are convinced that we did everything we could in this neighborhood to ensure this individual is not where he left last night.”
But he was.
INTERPOL issued a global security alert in the case tonight at the request of U.S. officials. The Orange Notice contains photographs of the explosive devices used in the marathon bombing and identifying information including the fingerprints of the two suspects to put other nations on notice to watch out for similar devices.
The White House also released a readout of a phone call President Obama had with Russian President Vladimir Putin tonight.
“President Putin expressed his condolences on behalf of the Russian people for the tragic loss of life in Boston. President Obama thanked President Putin for those sentiments, and praised the close cooperation that the United States has received from Russia on counter-terrorism, including in the wake of the Boston attack. The two leaders agreed to continue our cooperation on counter-terrorism and security issues going forward,” it said.
The suspects’ father told media that the Russian government hauled him in for questioning today.
In a late-night statement in the press briefing room, President Obama said a next step would be to understand “why did young men who grew up and studied here… resort to such violence.”
“Whatever hateful agenda drove these men to their hateful acts cannot, will not prevail.”
The president also chided Twitter, which played a revolutionary role in news coverage of the case, as a place where people can give into “temptation to latch onto conclusions” while investigations are ongoing.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) was chiding Obama on Twitter this afternoon to hold the suspect, if caught alive, as enemy combatant for intelligence gathering purposes.
#Boston suspect has ties to overseas terror organizations he could be treasure trove of information,” he continued. “The last thing we may want to do is read Boston suspect Miranda Rights telling him to ‘remain silent.’”
“The Obama Administration needs to be contemplating these issues and should not rush into a bad decision.”