GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

April 25, 2013

Report: Suspect unarmed at capture

From Wire and Staff Reports
Gloucester Daily Times

---- — BOSTON — As bagpipes wailed, more than 4,000 mourners paid their respects Wednesday to an MIT police officer who authorities say was ambushed in his cruiser by the Boston Marathon bombers, while U.S. investigators trying to get to the bottom of the plot looked for answers from the Tsarnaev brothers’ parents in Russia.

But two U.S. officials also confirmed that the surviving suspect in the Boston bombings was unarmed when police captured him hiding inside a boat in a neighborhood back yard.

Authorities had originally said they had exchanged gunfire with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev for more than one hour last Friday evening before they were able to subdue him.

The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the ongoing investigation, say investigators recovered a 9 mm handgun believed to have been used by Tsarnaev’s brother, Tamerlan, from the site of a gun battle Thursday night, which injured a Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority officer. Dzhokhar was believed to have been shot before he escaped.

But federal officials told The Associated Press Wednesday that no gun was found in the boat; Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis said earlier that shots were fired from inside the boat.

In other developments:

The bombs that rocked the Marathon were detonated by remote control, according to U.S. officials close to the investigation. It was not clear what the detonation device was, but the charges against surviving suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev say he was using a cell phone moments before the blasts.

The area around the finish line on Boylston Street reopened nine days after the tragedy, freshly poured cement still drying on the repaired sidewalk.

On Capitol Hill, lawmakers are asking whether a failure to share intelligence contributed to the bombings April 15 that killed three people and wounded more than 260.

And on Boston’s Beacon Hill, a Boston Herald report that the older alleged terrorist brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, had collected welfare benefits from the government while in Cambridge in 2012 drew outrage from State Sen. Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester.

“It is angering to see that those who perpetrated such a merciless and cowardly act of terrorism had been receiving state benefits funded by public dollars,” Tarr said in a prepared statement.

He vowed to “seek answers” as to “what types of benefits Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his family were receiving, and if they were receiving them appropriately. By investigating further, the Executive Office of Health and Human Services will be able to identify any possible failings of the welfare system that may have otherwise been left undiscovered.”

“Following the wake of destruction, death, and injuries that has impacted our state that these two men have caused,” Tarr said, “no stone can be left unturned in understanding how and why these events occurred.”

Wednesday, MIT students, faculty and staff, law enforcement officials from across the nation and Vice President Joe Biden gathered on the campus in Cambridge to remember Sean Collier, a MIT officer who authorities say was gunned down by Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev three days after the bombing.

The line of mourners stretched for a half-mile. They had to make their way through tight security, including metal detectors and bomb-sniffing dogs.

Boston native James Taylor sang “The Water is Wide” and led a sing-along during “Shower the People.”

Biden told the Colliers that no child should die before his or her parents, but that, in time, the grief will lose some of its sting.

“The moment will come when the memory of Sean is triggered and you know it’s going to be OK,” the vice president said. “When the first instinct is to get a smile on your lips before a tear to your eye.”

Meanwhile, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, was listed in fair condition as he recovered from wounds suffered in a getaway attempt last week. He could face the death penalty if convicted of plotting with his older brother to set off the shrapnel-packed pressure-cooker bombs that ripped through the crowd at the race. His 26-year-old brother died in a shootout last week.

Many Boylston Street businesses — banks, restaurants, gyms — remained closed Wednesday. But a nearby Starbucks opened for the first time and allowed customers to retrieve purses, cellphones and school bags left behind as they fled in terror.

“I don’t think there’s going to be a sense of normalcy for a while,” said Tom Champoux, who works a few blocks away, as he pointed to the cement and boarded-up windows. “There are scars here that will be with us for a long time.”

U.S. investigators, meanwhile, traveled to the predominantly Muslim province of Dagestan in southern Russia and were in contact with the brothers’ parents, hoping to shed light on the attack.

The parents, Anzor Tsarnaev and Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, plan to fly to the United States on Thursday, the father was quoted as telling the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti. The family has said it wants to bring Tamerlan’s body back to Russia.

Investigators are looking into whether Tamerlan, who spent six months in Russia’s turbulent Caucasus region in 2012, was influenced by the religious extremists who have waged an insurgency against Russian forces in the area for years. The brothers have roots in Dagestan and neighboring Chechnya, but had lived in the U.S. for about a decade.

After closed-door briefings on Capitol Hill with the FBI and other law enforcement officials on Tuesday, lawmakers said it appeared that the brothers were motivated by a strain of anti-American Islamic extremism, that they were radicalized via the Internet instead of by direct contact with any terrorist groups, and that the older brother was the driving force in the bomb plot.

Conflicting stories appeared to emerge about which agencies knew about Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s trip to Russia last year.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told a Senate panel that her agency knew about Tsarnaev’s journey to his homeland. But Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said the FBI “told me they had no knowledge of him leaving or coming back.”