More than a month after two suspected terrorists drove into Watertown, sparked a gunfight with police that killed one of the suspects, and spurred a massive manhunt that eventually led to the other’s capture, residents in this community are still looking for answers about the choices law enforcement agencies made and how events unfolded on April 19.
Watertown Police Chief Ed Deveau assured the more than 150 residents who attended a forum Wednesday night that the answers would come after an investigation is completed.
But he also tried to calm skittish residents who wondered why the Boston Marathon bombing suspects drove to Watertown in the first place.
“I don’t think it was random,” Deveau said about why the suspects came to Watertown.
Law enforcements agencies are still trying to piece together the lives of suspected terrorists and brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Deveau told those gathered at Watertown High School.
After 12 a.m. on April 19, the Tsarnaev brothers drove into Watertown after allegedly killing a police officer and carjacking a sport utility vehicle in Cambridge.
In the 18 hours that followed, Watertown police and other law enforcement agencies traded gunfire with the suspected terrorists, officers from tactical units knocked on doors looking for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, and residents were asked to stay inside their homes.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, died after being shot by police and then run over by Dzhokhar, 19, as he tried to escape. Dzhokhar was captured that evening.
Residents had both praise and questions for local police. Those who had questions said they were disappointed that the police could not speak in more detail at Wednesday’s forum, but understood that there was still an active investigation.
Liza Ketchum lives about three blocks from the shooting site, but there was gunfire along her street, too, and she was not sure why. The answer to that question will have to wait, Ketchum said. Still, the forum was “a nice chance to thank everybody,” she said.
Deveau said Watertown police are involved in a comprehensive national debriefing to study officers’ ability to gather intelligence and pinpoint what went right and what did not.
“Did everything go perfect?” Deveau said. “I’ll be the first one to say no. We got the job done.”
Among the questions left unanswered, although not brought up at Wednesday’s forum, is how MBTA Transit Police Officer Richard H. Donohue Jr. was shot. Donohue was struck in the right groin by a bullet that severed his femoral artery.
Eyewitness accounts strongly suggest that he was shot and nearly killed by a fellow officer during an exchange of up to 300 rounds of gunfire with Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
The shootout is under investigation. But Donohue has said he is not bothered that the injury may be a case of friendly fire.
“If it was friendly fire, it was friendly fire,” Donohue has said. “We got the job done, and the other suspect got captured shortly thereafter, so I’m just happy with that.”
As the region awaits answers, Watertown police officers and their families still have healing to do, Deveau said. Counselors from the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives talked to local officers and their children and spouses for five days and will continue to have conversations with them, Deveau said.
“We still have a lot of healing to do and will need your support in the coming weeks, months, and years,” Deveau told the community.
“We would hate to lose this dialogue with the town six months from now.”
Deveau noted that residents’ kindness to officers and their wearing the “Watertown Strong” shirts has uplifted the department. “We’re on the map. and we’re on the map for a reason,’’ he said.