Witness to History: Boston Marathon Bombing

Seat by seat, the rows filled in the Burke Theater of the
U.S. Navy Memorial Museum on Wednesday, October 7. Many came from across the
East Coast to listen to three officials
talk about the investigation and manhunt following one of the most recent
terrorist attacks in our nation’s homeland. As part of the Witness to History series, the National Law Enforcement Museum
provided the audience a chance to listen to first-hand accounts of what
happened in the days following the Boston Marathon Bombing.

On April 15, 2013, Boston Marathon fans lined the streets of
the region to cheer on the runners, an annual tradition for which the city is famous. No one would’ve suspected that this race
would be any different than the ones before it. Unfortunately, two pressure
cooker bombs near the finish line on Boylston Street set off a four-day chase
for brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev through several Boston-area towns.
U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts Carmen M.
Ortiz was in her office in Downtown Boston when the blasts occurred. “The news
of the explosions just spread like wildfire,” she said. Ortiz also referenced
the how the media both helped and hurt the investigation, pointing out how the
media reported the arrest of a suspect early on when it wasn’t case. But they
also provided the public with the information to assist in tracking down the
suspects, which led to the arrest of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in Watertown,
It was after midnight on April 19, 2013, four days after the
bombing and shortly after MIT Police Officer Sean A. Collier was killed by the same suspects in Cambridge, when Watertown Sgt. John MacLellan
and his team came upon the Tsarnaev brothers. A gunfight ensued where the
officers came under fire from bullets and small bombs. “This is something you
couldn’t train for in our department,” Sgt. McLellan recalled to the audience.
“It was more like a war zone than a street fight.” Tamerlan Tsarnaev died in
the battle from gunshot wounds and having been run over by his fleeing younger
Later that day, a 911 call came in from a Watertown resident
who noticed suspicious activity in his backyard. Former FBI Special Agent in
Charge Richard DesLauriers described the situation. “A call came in from David Henneberry who, after noticing a weather wrap
was loose on his boat, looked inside and saw Dzhokhar Tsarnaev alive and
sleeping,” he said. He was later captured by police, bringing an end to a
manhunt that captured the attention of the nation, and put the city of Boston
on edge.
Each panelist shared
how incredibly moved they were by Boston and Watertown residents who came
together in the aftermath of the bombings and the display of strength and
resilience of the victims and their families. Sgt. McLellan praised a family in
Watertown, who allowed officers to use
their bathroom during the search, and
said the experience had brought the community together. DesLauriers said it was
the local, state and federal law enforcement agencies working together that
played a role in the capture of the suspect.
The Museum’s Witness
to History
program began in June 2011. Since the inaugural event, 11 more
have been presented. Video recordings and photos from the events are availableto view on the Museum’s website.