Boston Locked Down for Massive Manhunt; One Bombing Suspect Killed, the Other at Large

Annie Gowen and Jerry Markon, Washington Post, April 19, 2013

Boston and its suburbs remained in an unprecedented state of lockdown Friday afternoon as scores of police and federal agents searched for the remaining suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings, after his brother died in an early-morning confrontation with authorities.

The quest to find Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev, a 19-year-old immigrant of Chechen origin who is also known as Jahar, riveted the nation, as cable networks and Web sites carried nonstop coverage and talk of the manhunt dominated Twitter. In Boston, the lockdown triggered the massive disruption of a major American city, with mass transit canceled, schools and business closed and hundreds of thousands residents ordered to stay indoors. A 20-block area of the suburb of Watertown was completely cordoned off.

Law enforcement officials said they believed Tsarnaev may be strapped with explosives, which only added to the concern. His brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, was killed during a wild night in which the brothers allegedly robbed a 7-Eleven store, killed an MIT campus police officer, critically wounded a transit officer and carjacked a Mercedes SUV before getting into a shootout with police.

The dramatic turn of events came only hours after the brothers were introduced to the world as suspects, via photos and video footage, in Monday’s bombings that killed three people and injured more than 170 at the finish line of the venerable sporting event.

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“This situation is grave. We are here to protect public safety,” Police Commissioner Ed Davis said. “We believe this to be a terrorist. We believe this to be a man here to kill people.”

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{snip} Their uncle, Ruslan Tsarni, told reporters outside his house in Montgomery Village, Md., that the family is Muslim and originally from the southern Russian republic of Chechnya.

“Somebody radicalized them, but it was not my brother, who just moved back to Russia,” he said. Asked what was behind his nephews’ actions, Tsarni said, “Being losers, not being able to settle themselves, and thereby just hating everyone who did.” He urged Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to “turn yourself in…He put a shame on our family. He put a shame on the entire Chechen ethnicity.”

Two law enforcement officials said earlier that they believe there is a “Chechen connection” to the bombings. In the last several months, Tamerlan Tsarnaev had posted videos to YouTube indicating his interest in radical Muslim ideologies.

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All public transportation was shut down in the greater Boston area Friday morning, officials said, and no vehicle traffic was permitted in or out of Watertown during the massive manhunt.

Residents of Boston, Watertown, Newton, Waltham and other suburbs were asked to stay inside, with their doors locked. Universities and schools announced they would close for the day, and businesses were instructed not to open. Streets were ghostly quiet. Thousands of officers searched house-to-house, and some areas were evacuated.

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One high school classmate of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Deana Beaulieu, described him as a quiet boy who had been on the wrestling team at Cambridge Rindge & Latin High School.

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Another high school classmate, Ty Barros, said Tsarnaev was a student at the University of Massachusetts’s Dartmouth campus, about an hour south of Boston.

A message that was posted on the university’s Web site on Friday said that the campus was closed and being evacuated “in response to information that the person being sought in connection with the Boston Marathon bombing is a registered student.”

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State Department officials said the Tsarnaev family appears to have arrived legally in the United States, though they did not specify when they arrived or the type of visas the family members had received.

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Larry Aaronson, who said he was a neighbor of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, described the young man in glowing terms in an interview with CNN. He said Tsarnaev told him he was Chechen, and had been in Chechnya during the war there.

“He was grateful to be here,” Aaronson said. “He was compassionate. He was caring. He was jovial…. He was a lovely, lovely kid.”

Aaronson said he realized he sounded like the stereotypical neighbor who praises someone suspected of a terrible crime. But “this is what I know him to be,” he said. “He was a wonderful kid. He was an outstanding athlete…. He was never a troublemaker in school.”

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