A day after the Boston Marathon bombings, a group of local police and fire unions offered $50,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the people responsible, leading to speculation after Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s capture about who could reap the reward.
Would it be Dun “Danny” Meng, the entrepreneur who called 911 after he was carjacked by the Tsarnaev brothers? Would it be David Henneberry, the Watertown resident who called police after spotting Dzhokhar Tsarnaev hiding in his boat? Or would it be Jeff Bauman, the man who lost both legs in the bombing and gave the FBI a description of one of the bombers while in the hospital?
But now that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been tried, convicted, and sentenced to death for his role in the bombing, union leaders say the answer is: no one at all.
Union officials explained that no real tipster came forward and identified the bombers. Instead, investigators said during the trial that they identified the Tsarnaev brothers by painstakingly searching through surveillance video and then hunting them down after they shot MIT police officer Sean Collier to death, carjacked Meng, and fled to Watertown.
“We were looking for a phone call saying A and B did this,” said Rich Paris, president of the Boston Firefighters Local 718, one of the five unions that came together to offer the reward. “That was what the $50,000 was for.”
Paris, the local 718 president, said people still occasionally ask him what happened to the reward money. But he said no one has called to claim it, and the unions never set aside the money in a separate bank account. “No one has ever approached me or the unions” about it, he said.
Paris noted that some of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s college friends, who potentially could have identified him after the FBI released his image from surveillance video three days after the bombings, were perfectly positioned to claim the reward.
Instead, they went to Tsarnaev’s dorm room and scooped up a laptop, fireworks, and other evidence that potentially could have linked Tsarnaev to the crime.
“If money talked, Sean Collier would still be alive,” Paris said.
One of the brothers, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, died after he was shot by police and then run over by his brother, Dzhokhar, who was captured after he was discovered hiding in a nearby boat.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was sentenced to death in June and is now locked up in the US Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Facility, also known as Supermax prison, in Colorado.
The decision not to hand out the money contrasts with the tone of union officials after Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was initially caught two years ago. Union officials suggested at the time they were waiting until Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was convicted and authorities released the full details of their investigation before paying out the money.
“We would not want someone deserving of the reward [to] miss out,” said Edward Kelly, president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts in May 2013.
And Gerry Sanfilippo, then president of the Boston Police Detectives Benevolent Society, said at the time: “My guess is it will go to someone at some point. . . . We are certainly not looking to duck this at all.”
The reward was originally offered by those three unions, plus the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association and the Boston Police Superior Officers Federation.
But groups that offer rewards for crime tips often put limits on the payouts. The FBI, which regularly offers rewards for tips to help them solve major cases, generally doesn’t offer rewards to victims or witnesses to crimes.
“Victims and witnesses are expected to provide information to law enforcement,” said M. Lee, an FBI spokesperson. “Rewards are meant for tipsters who provide critical information to the case, but may not have any connection to the case.”
Even when agencies do agree to cut checks, there are sometimes disputes over how to divvy up the money when multiple people offer information. And many tips do not pan out.
Henneberry declined to comment on the reward money. Bauman and Meng, the carjacking victim originally known only as “Danny,” could not be reached.
But both Henneberry and Bauman have received an outpouring of support for victims of the Boston Marathon bombings and its aftermath.
Bauman, one of three survivors who needed to have both legs amputated after the explosions, received a total of roughly $4 million from the One Fund Boston, launched to compensate victims of the bombings, and a personal GoFundMe campaign to help pay for the costs of dealing with his injuries. He also co-wrote a book that sold well enough to be published in paperback.
And a Texas man raised more than $50,000 to replace Henneberry’s boat, which was shot up by police trying to capture Tsarnaev and later seized as evidence.
Henneberry also received thousands of letters and a number of gifts, from candles to quilts.
“It was really wonderful what they did for us,” Henneberry told the Globe in 2013. “We can’t thank them enough.”