Downtown Boston Remains a Crime Scene – By KATHARINE Q. SEELYE, New York Times

April 16th, 2013 Print Print Email Email

BOSTON — The day after two powerful bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, a mile-square area of downtown Boston remained cordoned off as a crime scene, and officials still had no one in custody. However, investigators searched a house in a nearby suburb late Monday night.

Hundreds of runners who had expected to leave Boston on Tuesday morning with a sense of triumph after a night of celebration left instead with heavy hearts after at least three people were killed and more than 140 were injured, some of them having lost limbs and suffered grievous wounds.

Among the dead was an 8-year-old boy, identified by The Boston Globe as Martin Richard of Dorchester. Friends and family gathered Monday night at a restaurant to mourn him; he had been watching the marathon with his family, and his mother and a sister were badly injured. The names of the other victims have not been made public.

Late Monday night, law enforcement officials descended on an apartment building in the suburb of Revere, about five miles north of downtown Boston. They were seen entering the Water’s Edge apartment complex at 364 Ocean Ave., but officials provided no details of what local news accounts reported was a search. The authorities have not announced any arrests, and so far, no one has claimed responsibility as the police conduct what they said was “a criminal investigation that is a potential terrorist investigation.”

Among those injured were two brothers who had been watching the race. Both lost a leg from the knee down in the explosion. The men, ages 31 and 33, were taken to different hospitals and had lost track of each other until their frantic mother and other family members found them. Their names were not made public.

Downtown streets that normally would be clogged at rush hour were largely deserted Tuesday except for a cold wind and a few runners out for a morning jog. “It’s very surreal,” said Mary Ollinger, 32, who works at Wentworth Institute of Technology. “The streets are empty and the Common is filled with media trucks.”

Hundreds if not thousands of office workers avoided downtown on Tuesday because of closures. Maria Luna, 38, who lives in Watertown and usually commutes by bus to her job as an investment analyst at John Hancock, said she was staying home. “My manager told me it would be very limited access,” she said by phone. The emergency protocol in her office was activated, she said, meaning that essential workers, like those who must move cash on a time-sensitive basis, could report to an off-site disaster recovery station in Portsmouth, N.H., where the company has computers.

She said she felt a combination of sadness and terror. “Right now I have a big ball in the pit of my stomach,” she said.

While many area colleges were open on Tuesday, Emerson College said it canceled classes “for healing and reflection.”

Pat Cramer, 44, of Moorestown, N.J., who ran the race Monday, said he and a friend would try to see some of Boston, agreeing that they did not want the bombings to change their lives. “If you change your life, they win,” he said, a common refrain after the Sept. 11 attacks although in this case, no one knows yet who “they” are.

White House officials said that President Obama received updates overnight about the investigation from Lisa Monaco, his chief counterterrorism and homeland security adviser. “The president made clear that he expects to be kept up to date on any developments and directed his team to make sure that all federal resources that can support these efforts, including the investigation being led by the FBI, be made available,” a White House official said. Mr. Obama is to be briefed again later this morning by Ms. Monaco and the director of the F.B.I., Robert Mueller.

In Boston, law enforcement officials expect to brief the media at 9:30.

Almost three-quarters of the 23,000 runners who participated in the race had already crossed the finish line when a bomb that had apparently been placed in a garbage can exploded around 2:50 p.m. in a haze of smoke amid a crowd of spectators on Boylston Street, just off Copley Square in the heart of the city. Thirteen seconds later, another bomb exploded several hundred feet away.

Pandemonium erupted as panicked runners and spectators scattered, and rescue workers rushed in to care for the dozens of maimed and injured, some of whom lost legs in the blast, witnesses said. The Federal Bureau of Investigation took the lead role on Monday night, and Richard DesLauriers, the special agent in charge of the bureau’s Boston office, described the inquiry at a news conference as “a criminal investigation that is a potential terrorist investigation.”

The reverberations were felt far outside the city, with officials in New York and Washington stepping up security at important locations. Near the White House, the Secret Service cordoned off Pennsylvania Avenue out of what one official described as “an abundance of caution.”

President Obama, speaking at the White House, vowed to bring those responsible for the blasts to justice. “We will get to the bottom of this,” the president said. “We will find who did this, and we will find out why they did this. Any responsible individuals, any responsible groups will feel the full weight of justice.”

Mr. Obama did not refer to the attacks as an act of terrorism, and he cautioned people from “jumping to conclusions” based on incomplete information. But a White House official, speaking on the condition of anonymity afterward, said, “Any event with multiple explosive devices — as this appears to be — is clearly an act of terror, and will be approached as an act of terror.”

“However,” the official added, “we don’t yet know who carried out this attack, and a thorough investigation will have to determine whether it was planned and carried out by a terrorist group, foreign or domestic.”

Some runners were approaching the end of the 26.2-mile race when the two blasts, in rapid succession, sent them running away from the finish line.

“The first one went off, I thought it was a big celebratory thing, and I just kept going,” recalled Jarrett Sylvester, 26, a runner from East Boston, who said it had sounded like a cannon blast. “And then the second one went off, and I saw debris fly in the air. And I realized it was a bomb at that point. And I just took off and ran in the complete opposite direction.”

There were conflicting reports about how many devices there were. One law enforcement official said there had been four: the two that exploded at the marathon and two others that were disabled by the police. The official said that the devices appeared to have been made with black powder and ball bearings, but that investigators were unsure how the two that exploded had been set off.

It was unclear Monday evening who might be responsible for the blast. Although investigators said that they were speaking to a Saudi citizen who was injured in the blast, several law enforcement officials took pains to note that no one was in custody.

Some law enforcement officials noted that the blasts came at the start of a week that has sometimes been seen as significant for radical American antigovernment groups: it was the April 15 deadline for filing taxes, and Patriots’ Day in Massachusetts, the start of a week that has seen violence in the past. April 19 is the anniversary of the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

The explosive devices used in the attacks on Monday were similar in size to the device used in the 1996 attack at the Centennial Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta but were not nearly as large as the one used in Oklahoma City. In the Atlanta attack, a pipe bomb was detonated near pedestrians, killing 2 and injuring more than 100 — similar numbers to Monday’s attack.

The attack in Oklahoma City was far larger because the perpetrator used a truck packed with thousands of pounds of explosives. The device killed more than 150 people.

The attack on Monday occurred in areas that had been largely cleared of vehicles for the marathon. Without vehicles to pack explosives into, the perpetrators would have been forced to rely on much smaller devices.

Officials stressed that they had no suspects in the attack. The Saudi man, who was interviewed at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, had been seen running from the scene of the first explosion, a person briefed on preliminary developments in the investigation said on Monday afternoon. A law enforcement official said later Monday that the man, was in the United States on a student visa and came under scrutiny because of his injuries, his proximity to the blasts and his nationality — but added that he was not known to federal authorities and that his role in the attack, if any, was unclear.

The explosions brought life in Boston to a halt. Police officials effectively closed a large part of the Back Bay neighborhood, which surrounds the blast site; some transit stops were closed; planes were briefly grounded at Boston Logan International Airport and the Boston Symphony Orchestra canceled its Monday night concert. A Boston Celtics game scheduled for Tuesday was also canceled.

Boston was bracing for a heightened law enforcement presence on Tuesday, with its transit riders subject to random checks of their backpacks and bags, and many streets in the center of the city likely to be closed to traffic as the investigation continues. Gov. Deval Patrick said Monday night that “the city of Boston is open and will be open tomorrow, but it will not be business as usual.”

Boston’s police commissioner, Ed Davis, urged people to stay off the streets. “We’re recommending to people that they stay home, that if they’re in hotels in the area that they return to their rooms, and that they don’t go any place and congregate in large crowds,” he said at an afternoon news conference.

It had begun as a perfect day for the Boston Marathon, one of running’s most storied events, with blue skies and temperatures just shy of 50 degrees. The race typically draws half a million spectators. And long after the world-class runners had finished — the men’s race was won by Lelisa Desisa Benti of Ethiopia, who finished it in 2 hours, 10 minutes and 22 seconds — the sidewalks of Back Bay were still thick with spectators cheering on friends and relatives as they loped, exhausted, toward the finish line.

Dr. Natalie Stavas, a pediatric resident at Boston Children’s Hospital, was running in the marathon with her father and was nearing the finish line when the explosions shook the street.

“The police were trying to keep us back, but I told them that I was a physician and they let me through,” she recalled in an interview.

First she performed CPR on one woman. “She was on the ground, she wasn’t breathing, her legs were pretty much gone,” she said, adding that she feared that the woman had not survived.

Then she tried to help a woman with an injury in her groin area, and a man who had lost his foot. Dr. Stavas said she had applied a tourniquet to the man’s leg with someone’s belt. “He was likely in shock,” she said. “He was saying, ‘I’m O.K., doctor, I’m O.K.’ ”

“Then ambulances started coming in by the dozen,” she said.

The blast was so powerful that it blew out shop windows and damaged a window on the third floor of the Central Library in Copley Square, which was closed to the public for Patriots’ Day.

A number of people were taken to Massachusetts General Hospital, said Dr. Alasdair Conn, the hospital’s chief of emergency services — and several had lost their legs.

“This is like a bomb explosion we hear about in Baghdad or Israel or other tragic points in the world,” Dr. Conn said.

Several children were among the 10 patients who were brought to Boston Children’s Hospital, including a 2-year-old boy with a head injury who was admitted to the medical/surgical intensive care unit.

The police faced another problem as they tried to secure the blast scene: many spectators dropped their backpacks and bags as they scattered to safety, and investigators had to treat each abandoned bag as a potential bomb. There were bomb scares at area hotels. At one point in the afternoon, Boston police officials said that they feared that a fire at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum could have been related to the marathon bombs, but they later said it seemed to be unrelated.

The Boston police said that they were getting numerous reports of suspicious packages. Asked if they had found all the explosive devices, Mr. Davis, the police commissioner, urged citizens to remain alert and said he was “not prepared to say we’re at ease at this time.”

John Eligon reported from Boston, and Michael Cooper from New York. Reporting was contributed by Steve Eder, Ashley Parker, William K. Rashbaum, Katharine Q. Seelye and Mary Pilon from New York, Mark Landler, Michael S. Schmidt, Eric Schmitt and Abby Goodnough from Washington, and Joel Elliott, Dina Kraft, Tim Rohan and Brent McDonald from Boston.

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