MBTA Transit Police officers who arrested Dzhokhar Tsarnaev spoke today about the moments before they handcuffed a man accused of bombing the Boston Marathon last week.
The officers – part of the Transit Police SWAT team – told reporters at a press conference Monday that as they approached the boat where Tsarnaev was hiding, they felt no fear – only focus.
“At a time like that, training kicks in,” said Officer Saro Thompson, one of the officers who made the arrest. “We knew we gotta get him out, get him down.”
MBTA Transit Police Officer Richard Donohue, 33, was injured during a shootout between the police and the suspects in Watertown early Friday morning, after Donohue and other transit officers had joined a pursuit of the suspects from Cambridge.
After the fire fight, transit officers were part of the search for the suspect who remained at large, but were dismissed at 6:30 p.m., after authorities announced that they believed the suspect had escaped their perimeter.
Minutes later, they were called back to the scene: The suspect had been located.
They arrived later than many of the other law enforcement officers who had also raced back to Watertown, blocked off a perimeter, and trained their weapons on the boat to ensure that the 19-year-old could not escape.
Thompson said Tsarnaev had already indicated to law enforcement officers that he was willing to surrender.
Dozens of officers had already been assigned a task, Sgt. Detective Sean Reynolds said, and when it came time to move in, FBI officials looked to four members the MBTA Transit Police team.
“We just happened to be in the right place in the right time,” Reynolds said.
The conclusion of a weeklong manhunt was a relief, said Officer Jeff Campbell.
“We just want to get him into custody and have this situation come to an end – for us, for the families, for the city,” Campbell said. “It needed to end.”
The officers involved in the arrest had also taken part in the chase that led police from Cambridge to Watertown early Friday morning. At the time, Reynolds said, they did not know whether the shooting of an MIT police officer late Thursday night was related to the Marathon suspects.
“We couldn’t imagine they were separate, but we had no idea,” said Sgt. Detective Sean Reynolds.
“The adrenaline’s pumping,” he continued. “You’re just trying to get there to stop it.”
MBTA Transit Police Chief Paul MacMillan said he is hopeful that Donohue will make a full recovery. On Monday, he said, the officer’s breathing tubes were removed and he has been able to breathe on his own.
“Each day we get more optimistic,” MacMillan said.
Thompson said he and other MBTA officers had visited Donohue Monday, proud to tell him that they’d accomplished what Donohue had been attempting to do.
“I said, ‘We got him., ” Thompson said.