One Boston Marathon bombing suspect captured, the other killed

The image from the Boston Marathon used by the FBI to identify suspects Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, age 19 (at left, in white) and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, age 26 (at right, in black). Image from

The image from the Boston Marathon used by the FBI to identify suspects Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, age 19 (at left, in white) and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, age 26 (at right, in black). Image from

It seemed to this reporter like something out of a Hollywood action movie – a carjacking, shootouts with the police involving improvised explosives, one suspect killed while a massive manhunt searches for the other, wounded suspect. Yet unbelievable as it may seem, this was exactly what went down in Boston over a tense 22 hours and 25 minutes on Thursday and Friday.

The events began with two suspects identified and wanted by the FBI in connection with the Boston Marathon bombing Monday. Those bombings killed three people – Krystle Campbell, a 29-year-old who lived with her grandmother; Martin Richard, an eight-year-old boy; and Lingzi Lu, a 23-year-old Chinese citizen and Boston University graduate student. The blasts also wounded more than 170 people.

The suspects were two brothers, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, age 19, and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, age 26. The two brothers were originally from Chechnya, a region of Russia that went through two major civil wars after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Their family moved out of Chechnya, and after a few years, eventually immigrated to America. Tamerlan was something of an up-and-coming boxing prodigy; Dzhokar also took up martial arts, wrestling being his sport.

At 10:20 p.m. Thursday, a police officer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was shot and killed, allegedly by the two suspects. The officer was later identified as 26-year-old Sean Collier. Police say that after the shooting, the suspects carjacked a Mercedes SUV, holding the driver captive for about a half hour before dropping him off and speeding away. At 11:20 p.m., police warned the public to stay indoors, as they gave chase to the carjacked vehicle. During the chase, five pipe bombs and a grenade were thrown at pursuing officers, wounding one of them. Eventually, the chase made its way to the suburb of Watertown, where at 2:20 a.m. Friday police engaged in a shootout. According to police reports, the older brother, Tamerlan, was critically hit and taken to a nearby hospital, where he died of his wounds. Early reports said that Tamerlan was wearing an explosive vest when he died.

Meanwhile, a manhunt began searching for younger brother Dzhokhar, and the entire city of Boston was placed on lockdown. The hunt continued throughout the day, and at 7 p.m. Friday fresh gunfire was heard in Watertown. According to police, local had found a trail of blood leading into the boat in his backyard, and called 9-1-1 to alert the authorities. A thermal imaging camera mounted on a helicopter confirmed that someone was hiding in the boat, and at 8:45 p.m. police announced that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was captured alive. He was said to be “in serious condition” and taken to a hospital for treatment. The hospital where he was taken is also treating 11 of the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev being put on an ambulance under heavy police guard. Image taken by Douglas Healey.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev being put on an ambulance under heavy police guard. Image taken by Douglas Healey.

The dramatic events of the day inevitably lead people to ask, “Why?” Already, the media is filled with speculation surrounding the suspects. According those who know the suspects, Tamerlan Tsarnaev had aspirations of joining the U.S. Olympic boxing team, and had gradually grown more deeply religious, describing himself as a Muslim on Facebook and giving up alcohol and tobacco. He also convinced his girlfriend (whom he later married) to convert to Islam, but lamented to one reporter making a photographic profile of him in 2009, “I don’t have a single American friend, I don’t understand them.” He was investigated by the FBI in 2011 for alleged links to extremist groups, but was cleared. According to travel records, Tamerlan spent six months in Russia in 2012, but there is yet to be any explanation of what he did there, why he left, or if the trip had any connection to the bombings at all. Tamerlan also had a YouTube page that, among videos of family ski vacations and rap music videos, contained links to videos of extremist Islamic speakers and groups.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, meanwhile, appears to have been both less religious and more outgoing than his brother, and was a successful student and wrestler who earned a scholarship to study at the University of Massachusetts. He had aspirations of being a brain surgeon, according to his family.

The families of the suspects were shocked by the events. The brothers’ father claims that his children are innocent, and that they are being framed. Their uncle, on the other hand, told the press that he not only believed the accusations, but was angered by them. “You put a shame on our entire family — the Tsarnaev family — and you put a shame on the entire Chechen ethnicity,” he told reporters. When asked about the suspects’ motives, the uncle said, “Being losers, hatred to those who were able to settle themselves — these are the only reasons I can imagine. Anything else, anything else to do with religion, with Islam, is a fraud, is a fake.”

News of the capture led to spontaneous celebrations in the streets of Boston and across the nation. President Obama also made a brief statement thanking the police officers who helped capture the suspect and declaring that their actions “closed an important chapter in this tragedy.”

Although the surviving suspect has been placed under arrest, investigations continue. Three people have been taken in for questioning by police as witnesses in connection with the bombings; according to police, they are not under arrest. It is still not known what charges will be brought against Tsarnaev, though an official at the Department of Justice told CNN that he could be tried at both the federal level (for terrorism) and state level (for murder).

The Justice Department has also not read Tsarnaev his Miranda rights, and are claiming that his arrest is subject to the “public safety exception”. The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, which grants a number of rights to people accused of a crime, specifically says it does not apply “In cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger.” In 1984 the Supreme Court ruling in New York v. Quarles expanded on this text to argue that police can interrogate a suspect without first reading their rights in cases where people’s safety is at risk. The decision to apply this exception to Tsarnaev has been controversial. Groups that tend to advocate strong civil liberties argue that this decision is a violation of the intent of the Constitution and sets a bad precedent that could allow for the police to abuse this power in the future. On the other hand, some voices in Congress, including Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), want to see Tsarnaev tried not as a criminal but as an “enemy combatant”, which would mean he would have almost no rights and could be detained indefinitely or tried in military court.

Ultimately, such discussions could prove to come to naught if Tsarnaev dies. At press time, he was “clinging to life” according to ABC News. This report from CBS News states that he had been bleeding from the neck and leg for some time when found. No further word on his condition was available at press time.

Information from MSNBC, Fox News, CNN, BBC News, and others.