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FBI stands by decision to release Marathon suspects’ photos

Authorities released these photos on April 18 of two suspects in the Marathon attacks. The men were later identified as brothers Tamerlan (left) and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

FBI via REUTERS/file 2013

Authorities released these photos on April 18 of two suspects in the Marathon attacks. The men were later identified as brothers Tamerlan (left) and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

BOSTON — Federal law enforcement officials debated whether to release photos that led to the capture of a suspect in last year’s bombing at the Boston Marathon, an FBI official has told CBS News.

Stephanie Douglas, executive assistant director of the FBI’s National Security Division, said in a ‘‘60 Minutes’’ interview broadcast Sunday night that releasing images of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who has been charged in the bombings that killed three people and injured more than 260, was the right thing to do even though an MIT police officer was killed soon after.

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Prosecutors say Tsarnaev and his brother, Tamerlan, killed officer Sean Collier while on the run.

Douglas said law enforcement ‘‘really had no choice’’ but to release the photos.

‘‘Believe me, the death of Sean Collier is not lost on the FBI,’’ she said. ‘‘But I think at the end of the day, given the facts as we knew them at the time, we made the best decision.’’

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An argument against releasing the photos by security cameras along the route of the race was that they could have provided an incentive for the still unidentified suspects to escape, Douglas said.

Rick DesLauriers, the agent in charge of the Boston FBI office, said his wife told him at the time of the officer’s death that she believed those who killed Collier were those who were wanted for the bombings.

‘‘I did not believe that she had cracked the case at the time,’’ DesLauriers said.

But an agent called to tell him that authorities believed Collier was killed by suspects involved in the marathon attack and were at that moment engaged in a shootout with Watertown police.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev died following the shootout several days after the April 15 marathon. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was wounded but escaped and was later captured hiding in a boat parked in a yard in a Boston suburb.

Tsarnaev, 19, has pleaded not guilty to 30 federal charges, including the use of a weapon of mass destruction. More than half the charges carry a possible death sentence.

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