Adapted from Long Mile Home: Boston Under Attack, the City’s Courageous Recovery, and the Epic Hunt for Justice by Scott Helman and Jenna Russell, to be published by Dutton, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, a Penguin Random House company, on April 1. Copyright 2014, Boston Globe Media Partners, LLC.
DAWN BROKE FRIDAY on a still-life city. Streets empty. Businesses dark. Houses closed up. A transit system shut down. The clamorous night, with the frenzy over the suspected terrorists’ photos, the killing of MIT police officer Sean Collier, and then the gunfight in Watertown, had given way to a silent morning, eerie and frightening in its tranquillity. It was the last day of school vacation week. The weather looked promising. A perfect day to hit the playground, to ready a backyard garden for spring. Vacationing families were on their way home, their fridges empty, planning to pick up takeout for dinner. But this was not that kind of Friday.
At daybreak on April 19, 2013, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, his name now becoming known to the public, was still unaccounted for. His 26-year-old brother, Tamerlan, had died just hours earlier, after a shootout with police. The strain of the four days since the Marathon bombing was weighing heavily. With conviction mounting that the crisis needed to end, authorities turned to a radical plan: locking Greater Boston down until Dzhokhar was in custody. They knew the idea would be controversial — a major American city going dark to smoke out a wayward 19-year-old. Who had ever considered such a thing? Could it even be done?
Just two months earlier, with a massive blizzard enveloping Massachusetts, Governor Deval Patrick had ordered everyone but essential workers off the roads and shut down public transportation. The decision had its critics — “tyrannical,” some complained — but it had the desired effect: It kept accidents to a minimum and allowed a more rapid and effective cleanup. The gravity of the terror threat now seemed to justify something even more sweeping.
Patrick went before the TV cameras in Watertown that morning and delivered the unsettling message to residents of Boston, Watertown, Cambridge, Newton, Belmont, and Waltham, nearly 950,000 people in all: Stay inside, lock the door, and don’t open it for anyone but properly credentialed law enforcement officers. “There is a massive manhunt underway,” he said. “We’ve got every asset that we can possibly muster on the ground right now.”
Nervous parents drew the blinds, trying to explain to their children why they couldn’t run out into the beckoning sunshine. Watertown prayed for its safety, watching columns of police in full SWAT gear canvass its streets. The same nagging thought crept into the minds of many: What if the bomber is hiding near my house?
POLICE DREW UP A MAP that included roughly 20 blocks around the spot where Dzhokhar had dumped a carjacked Mercedes. Using Google Maps, they divided the area into five sections. Tactical teams, each composed of as many as three dozen officers, then went to work scouring Watertown block by block.
They rooted through yards, sheds, barns, pickup trucks whose beds were loaded with debris. They looked under porches and in basements. They asked people whether anything seemed amiss on their properties. Often, residents sought out the scrutiny because they thought they had heard footsteps. “They were kind of begging us — ‘Check the attic, check the basement, check the car,’ ” said Mike Powell, a police officer and SWAT team member from Malden.
For police, the assignment was already stressful enough, but no one wanted to let anything slip by. “You would hate to be the team that goes in there and misses something,” Powell said. Police knew the risks and urgency of their work, but they also knew they had to approach each house with calm and sensitivity, a task complicated by their conspicuous weaponry and armored vehicles.
Throughout the day Friday, police raced around Watertown chasing reports of suspicious activities. There was the 911 call about a woman reportedly being held hostage inside her home by a man with a gun. The person seen running into a home on Oak Street. The man speaking Russian who had crossed a secure line. The kid in a sweat shirt walking through a backyard. The young man sitting on a porch with a laptop, which seemed possibly connected to another report that Dzhokhar was online threatening retaliation for his brother’s death. “At least a dozen [times] just inside the perimeter, and then at the same time in the command post, we’re hearing different stuff that didn’t turn out to be accurate,” said Watertown Police Chief Ed Deveau. “But you have to run it down.” Watertown would receive 566 calls to 911 on Friday. The day before, there had been 28.
Authorities directed the manhunt operation out of a makeshift command post set up near Watertown’s Arsenal Mall. Around midday, as Patrick and Boston Mayor Tom Menino were preparing to brief the media again, there was a man in the street, not far from where the media had assembled, who said he had an explosive device and was going to blow himself up. Police had to move Patrick and Menino to the other side of some buildings while they checked it out; just another false alarm, in the end. “That,” Patrick said, “was the nature of the day.”
As the hours ticked by, nervous faces peered warily from windows of Watertown houses and apartments as people wrestled with whether to watch or retreat behind the curtains. They were frightened, but they were interested, too. Nothing like this had ever happened here, and it probably never would again. As the day wore on, many couldn’t resist stepping outside their homes, curious, dazed, and increasingly stir-crazy, just to take stock of it all. They watched in disbelief as convoys of armored trucks, State Police cruisers, ambulances, and fire engines from across New England roared up and down their streets, and they tried to read news in their speed and direction. They stiffened at the growl of low-flying helicopters. They leaned on one another for news and comfort. They gripped their smartphones like lifelines. Some turned to alcohol to calm their nerves. The whole day was like one big pregnant moment, and no one knew how it would end.
THEY WERE STARVING when they arrived in Harvard Square around 2 p.m. Deval Patrick was with about a half-dozen state troopers in full-body gear. Nobody had eaten in hours. They pulled up to Charlie’s Kitchen, happy to find the place open. Patrick had to laugh at the irony of it: We know we’ve asked everyone to remain indoors and businesses to close, but, hey, can you make us some cheeseburgers? People in the restaurant applauded the troopers when they walked in. After the meal, Patrick returned to the State House. Exhausted, he lay down on a couch in his office, not bothering to even take off his shoes.
Less than an hour later, his cellphone rang. It was the White House. The president was on the line. Barack Obama, with whom Patrick had been close for years, asked him how he was doing, whether he had everything he needed. The president had been following the investigation closely. They talked about the possible threats that were still out there, what they knew of the intelligence. They discussed the latest development, which involved promising police searches in New Bedford; authorities had picked up a ping down there from one of Dzhokhar’s electronic devices. Then Patrick and Obama discussed the shelter-in-place request. Obama told Patrick what the governor already knew: that they’d have to lift the request soon, regardless of whether they had found the suspect. They couldn’t ask people to stay in lock-down forever. Patrick told the president they planned to wrap up the house-to-house searches by the evening, and then they’d tell the public to carefully resume their lives.
Patrick knew, by day’s end, that it was time to go back before the cameras. What he had wanted to say — what everyone hoped he would say — was that after hours of searching, police finally had their suspect in custody. But that was not in the script. Instead he had to deliver the truth: that authorities did not know where Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was. The Red Sox and Bruins had called off their games. The Big Apple Circus was in town, but there were no clowns or elephants or trapeze acrobats. The city had more or less ground to a halt. And yet the dragnet had come up empty.
Around 6 p.m., the governor stepped up to a bouquet of microphones at the Watertown command post, a blend of determination and disappointment evident on his and other leaders’ faces. Menino was by his side in a wheelchair, frustrated by how little they had to report but convinced that Dzhokhar was contained in Watertown and that the shelter order should not drag on any longer. “We can return to living our lives,” Patrick said, urging residents to use extra vigilance. Mass transit would reopen immediately.
It made for an odd and unsatisfying juxtaposition — residents were being told to resume their lives, but a man suspected of killing four people and maiming scores more could still be right there in their midst. Later, Patrick said he had come to understand that you could trust the public with information — that you could be upfront about what you did and did not know and that people would respect that. “I’m not saying there was unanimity in support for what we had to do,” he said. “I think people basically got that we were trying to do what was in their best interest.”
In the car on the way home, Patrick felt drained. And he felt uneasy. He called the house, where his wife, Diane, and his daughter Katherine had been looking after each other. They decided that, on his way back, he would pick up Thai food from a place in Quincy they liked called Pad Thai. They had found it on Yelp a while back. Diane and Katherine placed the order; Patrick didn’t have enough brainpower left to do it himself. Comfort food for an uncomfortable night.
ALL DAY LONG, David Henneberry had been looking through his window at the two fuzzy paint rollers lying on his lawn. They weren’t supposed to be there — they had fallen out from the tight cover on his boat. He was itching to put them back where they belonged, but he didn’t want to disobey the police. Already, officers driving up and down his street had spotted him on his back steps smoking a cigarette. They had waved, with a look that said OK, but that’s far enough.
The boat in Henneberry’s backyard, the Slipaway II, was 32 years old, but it was nearly impossible to tell. He had owned it for 11 years, and he had been working on it the whole time, restoring the cabin, installing a new teak floor. When winter threatened, Henneberry took pains to protect it from the weather. That was where the fuzzy white paint rollers came in. When the boat was sealed in protective white plastic, Henneberry liked to tuck 10 or so rollers under the bottom edge of the wrap, so it wouldn’t chafe against the boat and leave scratches. It was an extra, almost obsessive bit of care. Now two of the rollers were just lying there on the grass. As soon as he was allowed to venture that far, he would check it out.
Henneberry and his wife, Beth, watched the 6 p.m. press conference on the TV in their living room. They heard Patrick announce that “the stay-indoors request is lifted.” It was all Henneberry needed to hear. Well, they didn’t get him, he thought. He got away somehow, and now he’s in Boston, Worcester, wherever.
Beth was not convinced. I wonder what they’re not saying, she thought. I think they think he’s still here. “I’m going to check the boat,” said her husband, heading to the back door.
Henneberry crossed the small backyard to his garage. He grabbed his stepladder, carried it outside, leaned it up against the side of the boat, and climbed on. He rolled up a section of wrap that covered the boat, put a clamp on it to hold it up, and peered in through the sheet of clear plastic underneath. Sunset was an hour away — there was still plenty of light — and Henneberry could clearly see blood on the floor. He looked forward, toward the cabin, and saw more blood, under the seats. His eyes traveled back and forth between the sets of bloodstains, his mind working to make sense of what he saw. His gaze shifted, to the deeper interior — that’s when he spotted the body. The person had his back toward Henneberry, the hood of a sweat shirt pulled up over his head. The body remained perfectly still as Henneberry, stunned, backed silently down the ladder. Later, he would not remember stepping onto the ground.
He ran into the house. “I . . . there . . . He’s in the boat,” he managed to stammer. Beth grabbed the phone, dialed 911, and thrust it at him.
“This call is recorded,” the operator told him.
Henneberry recited his name and Franklin Street address. “There’s a body in my boat in the backyard,” he recalled saying.
“Sir, did you say there’s a body in your boat?”
“Yes, there’s someone in my boat,” Henneberry repeated. “And a lot of blood.” He stood at the kitchen sink, watching the boat out the window.
The operator told him that police were on the way. Then he asked whether the man was still in the boat.
“I think so,” Henneberry said. “But I can only see one side.”
Henneberry decided to go back out and check. Cordless phone to his ear, he walked down the porch steps and onto the grass. He moved closer to his 6-foot wooden fence, peering down the side of it to check behind the boat.
“He’s still in the boat,” he assured the operator.
“How do you know that?” the operator asked.
“I’m looking at the other side,” Henneberry said.
As the operator ordered him to get back in the house, Henneberry turned away from the boat. He was facing his driveway when police came running up it, weapons drawn, yelling: “Get back! Get down! Where is he?”
AROUND 6:45 P.M., right after Henneberry’s 911 call, Boston Police Superintendent William Evans jumped in his car with two lieutenants, racing toward Franklin Street behind a Watertown cop. State troopers and other police officers quickly descended on the property, too. Evans positioned himself in front of Henneberry’s house, looking straight up the driveway at the boat. He saw the suspect poking at the tarp. Everyone at the scene began yelling. Police thought he might be trying to get a gun through. “We didn’t know what he had,” Evans said. “But given what he did at the scene of the Marathon, given what he did during the shootout, and given what he did to the MIT officer, we knew we were dealing with a serious terrorist here who had weapons to the max.”
Dzhokhar’s movements prompted someone to begin firing at the boat. Other officers immediately joined in, the shots ringing out through the quiet neighborhood. “Hold your fire!” Evans yelled. He believed they had the guy, that things were under control. And he wanted to take Dzhokhar alive. The bullets stopped. Evans didn’t need guns. What he needed were SWAT officers who could get the suspect out.
Rich Correale, Mike Powell, and Nick Cox had spent all day searching homes and properties in Watertown. The SWAT team officers from the city of Malden had just finished scouring an apartment complex. Then the supervisor got a call over the radio: A resident had seen blood on his boat. Police called for SWAT units. A Boston squad was heading to the house and asked the Malden team to join. The Malden guys heard “Shots fired!” over the radio and raced to the scene. With the shelter request now lifted, the streets leading to Franklin were lined with people — “like a parade,” Cox said. The Malden team dumped its van and ran the last quarter mile or so, in full SWAT gear.
Everyone’s attention turned to getting Dzhokhar out of the Slipaway II. Police were on edge, not knowing what his intentions were, what weapons he had, or how hurt he was. They tried tear gas, to flush him out, but he didn’t budge. Instead the gas drifted down the driveway, where the Malden team was set up. “We got smoked,” Correale said. “The whole place cleared out.”
Around this time, an FBI tactical unit arrived and took command of the scene behind a leader from the bureau’s Virginia-based Hostage Rescue Team (the FBI would later request the leader not be identified by name). The FBI unit was composed of 14 operatives, including three specialists in crisis negotiation. There were also two “breachers,” who had responsibility for preparing the scene for the operation; a K9 specialist, who coordinated all the responding K9 teams; three “assaulters,” who helped run the show on the ground; two communications specialists, one near the boat and another in a vehicle a few blocks away; and two snipers, who got up on a building and provided cover for everyone else. The team leader quickly won the trust and respect of local police, taking their guidance into account, keeping them informed on next steps, and leading with firmness and unexpected humility.
Hovering in a helicopter, State Police outfitted with thermal-imaging equipment reported that Dzhokhar looked as if he might be trying to start a fire in the boat; dozens of gallons of fuel could be on board. The FBI team leader calmly told everyone to back away. If the boat exploded, he said, the flash would come right down the driveway. “I know this is your party,” the leader told Correale. “But we’re going to want you to back up.”
The Malden SWAT officers were prepared for the worst. They’d been told that Dzhokhar had a weapon and had exchanged gunfire with police. Indeed, throughout the two-hour standoff, all kinds of reports were coming over the transom about Dzhokhar’s purported arsenal — that he had a rifle, that he was armed with an AK-47, that he wore a suicide vest. “I was under the impression these people had no regard for human life,” Powell said. “So I’m thinking this guy’s going to go out with the last hurrah, and he’s probably going to try to take as many out with him [as he can].”
At one point, around nightfall, Correale’s cellphone had rung. It was his wife.
“Hey,” she said, “you know they have him in a boat?”
“Yep, I know,” he said.
“Where are you?”
“I’m in the driveway.”
“You gotta be shittin’ me! You said you were just watching sidewalks!”
The FBI breachers launched at least four or five diversionary devices into the boat, which produced loud, bright explosions meant to stun and disorient Dzhokhar. The idea was to buy police and federal agents time to move in safely. State troopers had also positioned a BearCat — an armored military-style vehicle with chunky tires — in Henneberry’s backyard. They tried to tip the boat over using the BearCat, but the trailer made that difficult. They punctured the tarp instead. As the standstill continued, the FBI team leader came over to where Correale’s team had assembled alongside a group of SWAT officers from the MBTA Transit Police and officers from a regional unit called North Metro SWAT. If Dzhokhar wouldn’t leave the boat of his own accord, there remained one option for taking him alive: They’d have to go get him.
The FBI leader put his hand on Correale’s shoulder. “We need to move fast,” he said. “Get your team. Get a plan together.”
THE CALL CAME while Patrick was waiting to pay for his takeout order at the Thai restaurant. On the phone was Tim Alben, the State Police colonel. Alben told the governor the news: “We think we have the suspect.”
Patrick called his wife and told her he couldn’t come home. They arranged a quick transfer of the food on his way back north. Diane pulled up outside St. Agatha Parish, in their hometown of Milton, and the governor’s car did, too. Patrick hopped out, handed over the takeout, and gave his wife a kiss. “Be careful,” she said, and he was gone. They raced downtown, picked up Patrick’s chief of staff, and booked it to Watertown, blue lights flashing.
The principals gathered in a trailer at the Watertown command post — Patrick, Alben, Rick DesLauriers of the FBI, and other top officials, including an FBI tactical supervisor who, with chewing tobacco in his mouth and a Gatorade bottle as a spit cup, kept in constant communication with the leader of the Hostage Rescue Team at the boat. A flat-screen on the wall showed the live feed from a thermal-imaging camera on the State Police helicopter above Henneberry’s property.
For a time, Dzhokhar appeared to be still. They didn’t know whether he was alive or dead. The color of the image on the screen seemed to be fading. Then everyone stirred: He’s moving! He’s moving! Menino couldn’t get into the trailer because of a broken leg, so he sat in the front seat of his sport utility vehicle listening to the police radio, fervently hoping that this was really it. Let’s get this over with, he thought.
As the drama unfolded, the second-guessing began: How had the teams not found Dzhokhar’s hiding place? Was Henneberry’s house within the perimeter that police had spent the entire day searching? A clear answer would prove elusive in the days ahead, as different police officials provided different accounts. What was clear was that no one had searched Henneberry’s house — or his garage or his boat or his backyard — even though he lived just two-tenths of a mile from where Dzhokhar had ditched the Mercedes. One neighbor had his barn searched, but not his house. Another had her barn searched, but had to ask the officers to check the structure’s cellar.
The searches may have covered hundreds of homes and saturated whole blocks with SWAT officers, but the manhunt had hardly proved to be airtight. They had not, despite the promises, knocked on every door. And so it had been left to David Henneberry to discover Dzhokhar on his own. The chance encounter in a Watertown backyard could easily have ended with another victim.
GRABBING a kevlar ballistic shield from a federal agent, Rich Correale began to assemble a team to approach the boat. He, Powell, and Cox would lead, followed by the Transit Police officers and members of North Metro SWAT. Two FBI assaulters would provide cover. The SWAT unit lined up in Henneberry’s driveway, Correale in front with the shield, the others in a column behind him. The FBI leader returned and briefed them on what he knew. Negotiators were having some luck getting Dzhokhar to cooperate, in part by citing a public plea by his high school wrestling coach, Peter Payack, to give himself up. Dzhokhar had lifted up his shirt at one point to show that he wasn’t wearing a vest. Correale ran through their plan, how they would go at the boat, try to get Dzhokhar to surrender, and grab him if he didn’t. The FBI leader went down the line to each member of the SWAT team. Flashing a thumbs up, he asked them all: “You good with that?” The leader told them that if they didn’t like what they saw, they should pull back.
As they reached the boat, a couple of the SWAT officers fanned out from the line. They now had a clear view of Dzhokhar, whom negotiators had coaxed onto the side of the boat. “I’m saying: ‘Holy shit, this is the kid on TV. This is him,’ ” Correale said. The same mop of dark hair, the hoodie with blue and orange lettering, the college-boy look that seemed so incongruous with his alleged violent acts. Mike Trovato, a SWAT officer from the city of Revere, remembered his thoughts flashing to his wife and his daughter, who was just a few months old.
Dzhokhar, illuminated like a stage actor by lights police had trained on him, was draped along the edge of the boat’s port side, blood trickling down. His left leg hung over the side, and he was slumped over. He raised his shirt as SWAT officers approached, seeming to offer himself in surrender. But he kept rocking left to right, his right hand dipping out of view inside the boat. He seemed to be falling in and out of consciousness. He was a mess, a bullet round having left a wound on his head, his ear all ripped up, a gash on his neck.
“Show me your hands! Show me your hands!” Correale yelled at him.
“All right, all right,” Dzhokhar said back, his voice woozy, lethargic.
“Get off the boat,” Correale said. “Get off the boat.”
“But it’s gonna hurt,” Dzhokhar replied. The side of the boat was maybe 7 feet off the ground. It wouldn’t be an easy fall.
This was the tensest moment for the SWAT team. They couldn’t see Dzhokhar’s right hand and right leg. They feared what he might be holding, what he might be reaching for. Maybe the groggy voice was a ruse. Maybe he was just pretending to be out of it. Maybe this was all part of the plot. As he began to bring up his right hand, Correale thought, Here it comes. Here it comes. Powell was thinking the same thing as he watched the hand slowly rise: Pay attention to his hand. Pay attention to his hand. Finally Dzhokhar’s hand came into sight. He had nothing. They kept telling him to get off the boat, but he didn’t. The time had come to pull him down.
In a flash, the SWAT officers and others reached up and flung Dzhokhar down. He landed on the ground, and not gently. The officers swarmed, immediately frisking him for explosives and weapons. They pulled up his shirt. They patted down his legs. Trovato put his knees on Dzhokhar’s arm and checked his hands for triggers or cellphones that could detonate a remote bomb. A transit cop snapped handcuffs on his wrists. Around 8:45 p.m., the radio crackled with the words everyone had been waiting for: “He’s in custody! He’s in custody!” A cheer went up in the command trailer back at the mall. Amid the police radio traffic, Menino’s voice cut in: “People of Boston are proud of you.”
In Henneberry’s yard, the officers’ priorities shifted to a new urgency: saving the life of a man suspected of killing and maiming so many. “It was a real possibility that he could die without medical aid,” Trovato said. “I very much wanted him to live.” Like many other cops, he wanted to see Dzhokhar stand trial.
Two medics from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives came running over and began working on him. Two Boston paramedics jumped in, too, and provided oxygen. Dzhokhar was in rough shape: fractured skull, multiple gunshot wounds, including one from a bullet that went through the left side of his face, and injuries to his mouth, pharynx, and middle ear. He was battered and bloody, but he was alive.
AT 8:45 P.M., the Boston Police Department tweeted the three words the city badly wanted to hear: “Suspect in custody.” Within minutes, Anderson Cooper and Diane Sawyer were repeating it on CNN and ABC. Greater Boston erupted in euphoria. All the pressure that had been building since the bombing, all that anxiety and uncertainty, evaporated. Revelers streamed into the streets near Fenway Park. They flooded Boston Common. They ran out onto the sidewalks. They waved American flags and shouted teary thank yous to police. They belted out “God Bless America.” In Watertown, they cheered as Dzhokhar’s ambulance sped toward Beth Israel Deaconess hospital. In the center of town, a crowd gathered outside the H&R Block and hollered attaboys at the cops, whose blue lights swirled in the darkness.
Correale, Powell, and Cox stayed at the scene for a few minutes, then started the unhurried walk back to their van. It didn’t take long before the gravity of it all began to sink in. That’s probably going to be a piece of history right there, Powell thought. “The drive back, we’re like we can’t believe we were involved in that,” Correale said. “What are the odds?”
At 10:05 p.m., Obama spoke at the White House. He promised a thorough examination of the Tsarnaev brothers’ backgrounds, possible motivations, and associates. He paid homage to the fallen. And he praised Boston’s spirit for carrying the city through one of the most trying weeks imaginable. “Whatever they thought they could ultimately achieve, they’ve already failed,” the president said of the terrorists. “They failed because the people of Boston refused to be intimidated.” Back in his temporary quarters at the Parkman House on Beacon Hill, Menino cracked his bedroom window and heard the party on the Common. He felt proud of the city and happy as hell.
The sense of liberation Friday night was real, and in many ways deserved. Since 2:50 p.m. on Monday, Boston had been in terror’s grip. The sense of release could hardly have been more welcome. It was easy, though, for most of the celebrants to shout and to sing and to broadcast their civic pride in the “Boston Strong” T-shirts that were suddenly everywhere. It was easy to go to bed knowing that they could wake once again to a peaceful city, restored to its rightful sense of order. It was easy to look forward to the next morning’s Starbucks ritual, thankful that your son’s baseball game was back on.
But for all the wounded and the grieving families still reeling from Monday’s attack, there would be no such unburdening. There would be no luxury of exhalation. The week had ended for everyone else. Not for them. In many ways, it never would. As the brother of bombing victim Krystle Campbell put it: “I’m happy that nobody else is going to get hurt by these guys. But it’s not going to bring her back.” The only thing to do was to move forward, one day at a time, in hopes that tomorrow would be better than yesterday.
Scott Helman is a Globe Magazine staff writer and Jenna Russell is a Globe reporter. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.