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Mass. State Police Col. Tim Alben, Watertown Police chief Ed Deveau recount Boston Marathon bombing manhunt with D&C

04.22.13 at 11:17 am ET
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Col. Tim Alben, head of the Massachusetts State Police, and Watertown Police chief Ed Deveau joined Dennis & Callahan on Monday morning to discuss the manhunt for Boston Marathon bombing suspects Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. To hear the interviews, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

“I am so proud of the men and women of the Watertown Police Department,” Deveau said. “I just get choked up every time I think about what they did, what they’ve done, that Friday morning down on the side street of Watertown. It’s just incredible to me how gutty they were to be in a gunfight like they were and to bring these guys to justice and still be alive. It’s just incredible.”

Said Alben: “I’m certainly ecstatic with the outcome, and I’m so proud of everybody that contributed to this — certainly my state troopers, the Boston Police, the Watertown Police. There were so many police officers from the Northeastern [Massachusetts] Law Enforcement Council — from NEMLEC — there were the FBI, the ATF, the Marshals Service. You can’t even imagine how many people were represented in our command post there on Thursday and Friday.”

One of the first events Thursday night that set the manhunt in motion was the shooting of MIT officer Sean Collier. Alben said he does not yet know why Collier was killed, just how it happened.

“[Collier] was dispatched to a loud noise call somewhere around the campus there and had pulled up and found really nothing,” Alben said. “Shortly after his arrival, these two approached him and literally executed him as he was sitting in the car and about to get out. He sustained a number of shots. I won’t get into the graphics of it all, but this was something that borders on an execution — something you wouldn’t do to an animal let alone another human being.”

Added Alben: “I don’t want to theorize, but clearly they were after something or there was some purpose in all of that. Now whether it was because they wanted his weapon or there was some alternative strategy there, I don’t know. They put a bomb own behind an 8-year-old boy on Boylston Street. How do we inject any kind of logic in any of this?”

As the suspects made their way into Cambridge in two vehicles — including one that was carjacked — Deveau’s troops were alerted. The suspects began shooting at the first responding officer, and backups quickly showed up and aided in the battle. At least one of the suspects then began throwing bombs.

“The gunfight started, my understanding is, a lot of exchange of rounds,” Deveau said. “At some point they go behind their second vehicle, the Honda Civic that they had there, open the trunk, and the next thing you know, my officers can see something being hurled at them, and then there’s a huge explosion. That turned out to be the pressure-cooker bomb. We found the pressure-cooker lid embedded in a car farther down the street. ‘€¦ They threw four more of those [pipe bombs], two exploded, two didn’t go off. But my officers knew they were around them, and they didn’t know if they were going to go off at any time. So, we’ve got hundreds of rounds, five bombs being thrown at you in this tiny little side street in Watertown.

“My heart goes out to the MIT officer, his family and the tragedy they have. Why Watertown isn’t planning funerals for one, two, three, four, five officers is incredible to me.”

Transit officer Richard Donohue was injured in the gunfight and remains in critical condition.

“The gunfight went on for 10 minutes,” Deveau said. “The transit officers showed up, the state police showed up. So, they kind of took positions behind our officers as the gunfight continued. Unfortunately, [Donohue] was right behind our officer and he took a bullet in his groin, hit an artery, and he started to bleed out. ‘€¦ Now we realize we have a transit officer down. So, all my officers now are trying to give first aid. One of my officers is has medic training, he starts stopping the bleeding. It was just heroic what they did. He was literally ready to bleed out. Watertown ambulance shows up. And the officer had to drive the ambulance to the hospital — never drove it before, but just rushed him to the hospital.”

As the gunfight started to wind down, Tamerlan Tsarnaev stepped out from behind the car and moved toward police while discharging his weapon.

“At the end, No. 1 [suspect], as you say, comes out of cover and just starts closing in on my police sergeant, coming right at him, focusing on him, Deveau said. “The end of that gunfight between those two, they were within 10 feet of each other. ‘€¦ Good for the good guys that [Tsarnaev] ran out of ammunition.”

A Watertown officer then tackled the older brother and two more officers joined in to handcuff him. That’s when the younger brother, Dzhokhar, jumped into the carjacked SUV and drove at the group of men.

“They’re in the middle of the street handcuffing him when the second brother gets in the SUV,” Deveau said. “And you can understand that my guys, with three bombs going off, their hearing isn’t very good. So, they don’t hear the car bearing down on them. All of a sudden, somebody’s trying to get to them, yelling at them, and I think they saw the lights, or somehow at the last minute they were aware that the car was coming. They dive out of the way and barely get out of the way. This guy was going to run down three of my police officers.”

Dzhokhar ended up driving over his brother and dragging him about 45 feet. Dzhokhar drove a few more blocks before getting out of the vehicle and taking off on foot. The authorities set up a search area but could not locate him. He eventually turned up in a stored boat in the backyard of a home.

“We quickly established a perimeter with those officers that were all responding, and they took up a perimeter that we felt comfortable with we probably had him locked in,” Deveau said. “The boat neighborhood was just about a block, maybe a block and a half outside of our perimeter, unfortunately.”

Based on the weaponry the suspects used, Deveau said it’s clear they had greater destruction in mind. But their behavior is difficult to comprehend.

“They do the Boston bombing, they don’t leave. They get their pictures in the media, they don’t leave. And they have six bombs. They wanted to kill more people,” Deveau said. “I can’t make sense of the killing of the MIT officer. But I think if we didn’t have that gunfight and we didn’t take them — kill one, put the other one in custody — these guys were hell-bent on killing more people.”

Added Deveau: “What their plan was, I have no idea. But I can’t say enough about my police officers, that they stopped them, they pinned them down, didn’t let them out, didn’t let them in a house and they got them into custody. They were going to kill a lot more people.”

Reports have emerged that the Russian government asked the United States to look into Tamerlan Tsarnaev for possible terrorist behavior a couple of years ago.

“It’s entirely possible that the name is in there somewhere. If they interviewed him, there would certainly be a record of that,” Alben said. “Let me just say this: From Monday through Thursday I had been over at Center Plaza repeatedly. There are thousands of agents that are here — not just from Boston but throughout the East Coast — that are working either on evidence collection, sifting through the data, analyzing photos and videos, and certainly doing the intelligence portion of this. So, I don’t know how many people are in their database here in Massachusetts or across the country. But I know that they did everything that they could conceivably do to identify who this was.”

Alben said members of the law enforcement community volunteered to work extra hours and “drop what they’re doing to be a part of this.”

“If you understand — and maybe someday you’ll see the video of this — if you’re not struck by the callous, cold-blooded killing, then you’re inhuman,” Alben said. “It’s daunting.”

Asked about what can be done to prevent such attacks in the future, Alben said it would help if the public was more attentive.

“Sure, there can be other things done,” Alben said. “Some of them will be more surreptitious. Obviously we see now the benefit of surveillance cameras. And now they’re much more high definition than they ever were in the past. I think, though, that ultimately what it comes down to, when you have large open-air public events like this, there’s always going to be a certain amount of risk that you assume. Unless you’re willing to fence off an entire area and create portals, like you’re going into Gillette Stadium or you’re going into Fenway Park, then you’re not going to be able to do that in large outdoor events. So, we’ve got to be more creative, we’ve got to be more strategic about it, and we’ve got to look at more technology.”

“But the other part of this, too, is — going back and looking at the videos, what really struck me is how this person can just walk up in a busy area, and nobody pays attention. And I’m not blaming anybody, I’m not trying to attribute that, but the public has to be very, very diligent about people around them. I mean, I don’t go into a movie theater without looking around to see who’s sitting next to me or who’s a couple of rows away. Every time you go into a major event like this, you’ve got to be on your game. You’ve got to at least be looking around and seeing what your surroundings are.”

Read More: Boston Marathon bombing, Ed Deveau, Tim Alben,