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Man held after backpacks detonated near Marathon finish line

Police took one man into custody on Boylston Street Tuesday night near the Boston Marathon finish line and detonated two backpacks after the suspect said that he had a rice cooker in one of them, creating tension one year after last year’s bombings at the event.

Boston police Superintendent Randall Halstead said during an evening briefing that an officer saw the suspect, who was later identified as Kevin Edson, 25, of Boston, walking barefoot down the middle of Boylston Street just before 7 p.m. Halstead said the man was dressed in black, carrying a knapsack, and acting strangely, though he did not provide details of his behavior.

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The suspect told the officer that he had a rice cooker in the bag, Halstead said, at which time he was arrested and the bomb squad was called.

“Training kicked in,” said Halstead.

He said the bag was “rendered safe” by the bomb squad, and that another bag located near the scene was detonated in the same manner.

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He did not say what, if anything, police found in either bag, except to say there were pieces in the suspect’s bag that may verify what he said about the rice cooker. He said police were investigating who owned the second bag.

Halstead added that officers are on heightened alert during the Marathon festivities.

“We are taking this seriously,” he said.

Edson is scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday in Boston Municipal Court on charges of threatening battery, possession of a hoax device, threat to commit a crime, disturbing the peace, disturbing a public assembly, and disorderly conduct, police said.

Several news outlets showed video footage of what appeared to be Edson walking down Boylston Street wearing black clothes with a large black hat and veil, and shouting “Boston strong.”

Police said the backpacks were detonated “for precautionary reasons.’’

Before the detonations, authorities sealed off the area near the finish line and the Boston police bomb squad arrived.

At about 9 p.m., police detonated one of the backpacks, spokesman David Estrada said. The loud boom near the finish line, a year to the day after the deadly 2013 Marathon bombings, frightened several bystanders. A second detonation occurred shortly after 9:30 p.m., under a steady rain.

Art Johnson, 52, of Natick said he was on Boylston Street when the first detonation went off. Despite Tuesday night’s events, he said he is not anticipating another attack at this year’s Marathon.

The MBTA suspended service at about 9:10 p.m. for Green Line trains operating between Haymarket and Kenmore stations, said spokeswoman Kelly Smith. Service was back at 9:50 p.m. Copley station reopened at 11:50 p.m.

Earlier in the day, survivors of last year’s bombings joined rescuers, public officials, and others for a ceremony at the John B. Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center.

Tuesday evening, many onlookers watched the investigation intently on Boylston Street.

John Makkinje, 21, a Boston University junior who ran in last year’s Marathon, said he was surprised by the evening’s events.

“Hopefully just some wacko,” said Makkinje, who plans to run in this year’s race.

Another man, who did not provide his name, was one of several people filming the investigation on a cellphone.

“It’s crazy,” he said. “I’m just on vacation.”

Police began clearing out of the area shortly before 10 p.m., but a large contingent of uniformed officers remained on scene directing vehicle and pedestrian traffic.

Some pedestrians stopped to look at what appeared to the two detonated black bags near the finish line after Boylston Street began to open up again. Officers told the onlookers to keep moving.

Globe correspondents Todd Feathers and Jennifer Smith contributed to this report. Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com.
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