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Friday, April 19, 2013

DETAILS OF EARLY FIREFIGHT EMERGE


Dominic Chavez / EPA Police SWAT teams make house to house searches in Watertown, Mass. on April 19.

By Pete Williams, Richard Esposito, Michael Isikoff and Tracy Connor

The Boston Marathon bombing suspect was on the run Friday evening as officials said he and his brother exchanged 200 rounds with police during a stunning firefight early in the morning and left seven homemade explosives behind.
More than 18 hours after a bloody rampage that started with the slaying of a cop and ended with the death of one suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev continued to elude a massive manhunt and the city and surrounding suburbs remained on lockdown.
Anxiety was rising as SWAT teams and troops hunted door to door for the fugitive – and for more bombs – with more than a million people warned to hunker down behind locked doors. Police said Tsarnaev is the sole suspect in the investigation.
Tsarnaev, 19, remained on the lam nearly 20 hours after he and brother, Tamerlan, 26, made a desperate effort to flee the city following the FBI's release of their photos Thursday evening.
 
AP
Suspect #1 (Tamerlan Tsarnaev) pictured in a photo from The Sun of Lowell provided by AP and Suspect #2 (Dzhokhar Tsarnaev) in the Boston Marathon explosion is pictured in this undated FBI handout photo.
 
The brothers killed a campus security officer, carjacked a man, and led police on a wild chase that ended in a firefight, officials said. The older brother, who had a bomb strapped to his body, was killed. The younger one escaped, though he may have been wounded, law enforcement sources said.
The suspects' uncle, Ruslan Tsarni, called the brothers "losers" and urged Dzhokhar, a naturalized American citizen of Chechen origin, to turn himself in.
"We're ashamed," he thundered outside his Maryland home.
Three dozen FBI agents surrounded the Cambridge, Mass., home where the brothers grew up after moving to the U.S. a decade ago, seeking asylum. They did not say what was found there.
Across the area, as police cars screamed down streets and helicopters hovered overhead, authorities urged the public to stay inside and keep their doors locked to anyone but law-enforcement officers.
"There is a massive manhunt under way," Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick said. "We are asking people to shelter in place."
Subways and buses were shut down, and Amtrak service to Boston was cut. The Red Sox and Boston Bruins' home games were canceled.
Harvard University, Boston University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Emerson University were closed. The University of Massachusetts' Dartmouth campus was evacuated because someone wanted in the case is registered there, the school said on its website.
Police are at the Cambridge, Massachusetts, home of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects, haven't yet entered the building, suspecting it may be booby-trapped. NBC's Ron Allen reports.
The lockdown initially affected more than 300,000 people in Cambridge, Watertown, Newton, Brighton, Allston and Belmont. By 8 a.m., the entire city of Boston was paralyzed, although officials later told people who were stuck at work they could drive home.
Watertown, where the second suspect was last seen, was the epicenter of a sprawling search. By 12:30 p.m., police estimated, 60 percent of the homes had been searched. Frightened residents were trapped inside as convoys of heavily armed officers and troops arrived by the hour.
The overnight violence began at MIT about five hours after the FBI released surveillance photos of two "extremely dangerous" men suspected of planting two bombs near the finish line of Monday's Boston Marathon, killing three and wounding 176.
Tips about the identity of the suspects were still pouring in when the Tsarnaev brothers fatally shot MIT patrol officer Sean Collier, 26, in his vehicle at 10:20 p.m., law enforcement officials said.
The brothers then carjacked a Mercedes SUV, holding the driver captive for a half-hour while they tried to use his cash card to get money from three ATM's, a source said. At the first, they put in the wrong number; at the second, they took out $800 and at the third, they were told they had exceeded the withdrawal limit, the source said.
The carjacking victim was released unharmed at a gas station in Cambridge, sources said. He told police the brothers said they were the marathon bombers and had just killed a campus officer.
As the duo sped in his car toward Watertown, a police chase ensued and they tossed explosive devices out the window, officials said.
There was a long exchange of gunfire, according to Andrew Kitzenberg of Watertown, who took photos of the clash from his window and shared them via social media.
“They were also utilizing bombs, which sounded and looked like grenades, while engaging in the gunfight,” he told NBC News in an interview. “They also had what looked like a pressure-cooker bomb.
“I saw them light this bomb. They threw it towards the officers,” he said. “There was smoke that covered our entire street.”
A transit officer, identified as Richard H. Donahue, 33, was seriously injured during the pursuit. Authorities said he was in surgery at Mount Auburn Hospital.
Kitzenberg said he saw the firefight end when Tamerlan Tsarnaev ran toward the officers and ultimately fell to the ground.
Tamerlan -- the man in the black hat from FBI photos released six hours earlier -- had an improvised explosive device strapped to his chest, law enforcement officials said.
Dzhokhar -- the brother who was wearing a white hat in the surveillance photos from the marathon -- drove the SUV through a line of police officers at the end of the street, Kitzenberg said.
Law enforcement sources told NBC News that blood found at the scene suggests Dzhokhar may have been wounded in the gun battle. He was described as light-skinned and with brown, curly hair, and wearing a gray hoodie. The FBI released more photos of him, including a surveillance camera photo from a convenience store.
A series of Twitter posts by Dzhokhar also emerged. One sent two hours after Monday's double blast quoted Jay-Z, saying: “Ain't no love in the heart of the city, stay safe people."
His father, in Russia, told the Associated Press he was "a true angel" and described him as a medical student who was expected to visit for the holidays.
Authorities painted a starkly different picture.
"We believe this man to be a terrorist," Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis said. "We believe this to be a man who's come here to kill people."
Armored humvees and busloads of law-enforcement could be seen rolling into Watertown in the hours after the gunfight.
"We've got every asset we could possibly muster on the ground right now," Patrick said.
Secretary of State John Kerry, who is from Massachusetts, praised law enforcement for their work during "a pretty direct confrontation with evil."
"In the past few days we have seen the best and we've seen the worst of human behavior, and it's the best that all of us really want to focus on," he said.
Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein told NBC News it's clear the marathon bombing was "a terrorist attack."
"It's also clear, you know, that you know you don't have to be a card-carrying member of any terrorist group to commit a terrorist attack," she said.
NBC News' Jonathan Dienst and Kasie Hunt contributed to this story
 

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