Police capture Boston Marathon bombings suspect


amBOSTON (Credit: Getty)

The search for the Boston Marathon bombers ended Friday night to the sound of flash-bang grenades and neighborhood cheers as the second of two Chechen brothers was cornered, captured and taken away in an ambulance.

Boston police confirmed about 8:45 p.m. that they had taken 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev into custody, after they discovered him hiding in a boat stored behind a house in nearby Watertown, Mass. A trail of blood tipped off the boat's owner -- and the police -- to Tsarnaev, ultimately leading to an apprehension and climax to a violent week.

"Tonight, our nation is in debt to the people of Boston and to the people Massachusetts," President Barack Obama said at the White House.

Tsarnaev's brother, 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev, had died following a shootout with law enforcement officers early Friday morning, but Dzhokhar had escaped, setting off an extraordinary manhunt that both captivated and stilled one of the nation's most vibrant cities.

Following a frantic search that essentially had shut down Boston for much of Friday, Franklin Street residents in Watertown heard a flurry of gunshots around 7 p.m. Law enforcement and emergency vehicles arrived with sirens screaming at the scene, setting up a perimeter that was reinforced by the minute.

About 8 p.m., residents heard a number of flash-bang grenades, commonly used to disorient suspects; some time later, police could be heard urging Tsarnaev to give up.

When it became clear that he had surrendered, neighbors burst into cheers and applause.

The climax came shortly after Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick gave a green light for the city's mass transit system to reopen, returning at least a touch of normalcy to a metropolis that's been stricken since the Monday bombings and that went into full-scale lockdown Friday.

Boston officials had halted the city's mass transit system and urged residents to "shelter in place'' before finally giving workers the go-ahead to leave for home in the early afternoon. While mass transit resumed about 6 p.m., the Boston Bruins and the Red Sox canceled their night games.

Even the downtown streets in Boston were deserted, with few people out and most stores closed. An Au Bon Pain restaurant that posted it was closing at 4 p.m. was quickly mobbed, as if a hurricane were approaching. Patrons grabbed bottles of waters and cleaned out the case of ready-made sandwiches.

The chilling emptiness of a major city's streets was unprecedented, said Brian Michael Jenkins, a transportation security expert at the Mineta Transportation Institute at San Jose State University. Jenkins noted that though parts of cities were shut down during hostage situations and gang standoffs, not even the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks brought New York City to a complete standstill.

"We're in absolutely new territory,'' Jenkins said in an interview. "It's extraordinary.''

Officials also locked down and later evacuated the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, a campus about 60 miles from Boston where the younger Tsarnaev is a student. By midafternoon, National Guard helicopters were landing at the campus and off-loading what appeared to be SWAT teams.

While Boston's streets were empty, electronic airwaves and the Internet were jammed as television crews swarmed Tsarnaev family members for interviews from Maryland to Canada, and as far away as Russia. Social media sites like Twitter and Facebook lit up with news, rumors and commentary.

The number of people following Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's Twitter feeds skyrocketed to more than 35,000 in just a few hours. The FBI used Twitter to alert citizens that the surviving brother might be driving a "1999 four-door, green Honda Civic with Massachusetts license plates,'' only to cancel the alert an hour later.

Investigators identified the two brothers as suspects in the Monday bombings, which happened around 2:50 p.m. near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. The blasts killed three people, including 8-year-old Martin Richard, and wounded nearly 200. Physicians have performed multiple amputations on victims, whose ages range from as young as 2 to as old as 78.

The unanswered questions include, beyond the location of the suspected bomber, any idea of motive or explanation for how the two brothers came to be possible murderers.

"Somebody radicalized them,'' the brothers' uncle, Ruslan Tsarni, told reporters outside his suburban Maryland home late Friday morning.

In one hint of potential radical interests, a profile published under Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's name on Vkonta, a Russian-language social media site that resembles Facebook, had links to news videos about terrorist attacks on the subways in Moscow and in the Belarus capital of Minsk.

The violent odyssey that began Monday resumed Thursday evening just a few hours after the FBI released photos and videos of suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings, when a security camera in a convenience store in Cambridge captured an image of one of the men.

At 10:30 p.m., Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer Sean Collier, 26, of Somerville, was found fatally shot in his cruiser. He was rushed to Massachusetts General Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The two suspects then carjacked a Mercedes SUV at gunpoint, reportedly identifying themselves to the car's owner as the perpetrators of the marathon bombing. The car's owner escaped half an hour later at a gas station and the SUV headed toward Watertown, about eight miles from downtown Boston. Police chased the suspects, even as they tossed several explosive devices at officers from their car.

About 12:45 a.m., gunfire broke out between the suspects and police in Watertown. Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority Police Officer Richard H. Donohue was badly wounded in the shootout. Tamerlan Tsarnaev also suffered serious injuries and was pronounced dead at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center at 1:35 a.m. His younger brother got away in the car, reportedly running over his brother in his haste and setting off a chase that led to close police scrutiny of area. "We are progressing through this neighborhood,'' Alben told reporters about noon Friday. "We are going house by house, street by street.''

ABC reported that a resident alerted police to the potential hiding site late Friday. The neighborhood had been locked down all day, but law enforcement officials advised residents after 6 p.m. that it was safe to go outside. One Franklin Street resident went to check on his boat.

"He happened to notice that the boat didn't look right, so he looked inside, that's where he saw the blood and the body," Franklin Street resident George Pizzuto told ABC.

Tags: NEWS , Boston Marathon , Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

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