Boston Marathon bombing 10 years later: How law enforcement found the Tsarnaev brothers

BOSTON — On busy Boylston Street today, the scars of April 15, 2013, are still vivid.

“I avoid Boylston Street a lot” said former Boston Police Chief Dan Linskey. “When I go by the Memorial, I have a reaction.”

For law enforcement, the passing of a full decade has not dulled the impact of what happened.

“It’s truly amazing ten years has gone by,” said former Boston FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge John Foley.

On that April afternoon, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, brothers from over the river in Cambridge, easily blended into the crowds gathered to cheer the runners finishing the Boston Marathon.

At 2:49 p.m., within seconds of each other, the Tsarnaevs detonated two pressure cooker bombs packed with shrapnel.

Former Boston Police Chief Dan Linskey arrived on scene at the Forum Restaurant where Martin Richard and Linzi Lu were killed.

He could not believe his eyes.

“They destroyed him. They destroyed the young woman next to him,” Linskey remembered.” The devastation of what they did to those innocent kids, the destruction around me, the sights, the sounds, I froze.”

Quickly, Linskey got to work, rendering first aid to a victim who nearly lost her leg.

Then, he took command of the scene, ordering more ambulances and sending detectives to start collecting surveillance images from this massive chaotic crime scene.

“That video was going to be processed frame by frame by analysts who were looking for the needle in a haystack,” said Linskey.

By the end of that first day, law enforcement had already collected the surveillance images from Boylston Street that they would need to identify the Boston Marathon bombers. But that positive identification wouldn’t be made for days.

The day after the Boston Marathon attacks, Tuesday, the first images of the Marathon bombers emerged to law enforcement.

They became known as Black Hat and White Hat.

On Thursday, the FBI revealed the images and appealed for the public’s help identifying them. The press conference forced the Tsarnaevs to flee.

First, they killed MIT Police officer Sean Collier in an attempt to steal his gun. Soon, the Tsarnaevs found themselves cornered in Watertown in a dramatic shootout with police.

“It was like a war, because smoke was still coming off,” former FBI Boston assistant Special Agent in Charge John Foley remembers what the Watertown scene looked like when he arrived.

It was in Watertown that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev escaped police by running over his brother. But at that point, law enforcement still did not know the identity of Black Hat or White Hat.

As Black Hat was rushed to the hospital, Foley ordered that his fingerprints be taken.

“About 45 minutes an hour later I get a call, we got a hit on the dead guy. And this is who he is. And I’m like, Oh my God. That was the first time we knew who one of the people we were dealing with, and then shortly thereafter I got a phone call on the scene, white that’s his brother,” Foley said.

The next day, relief swept the entire region as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was finally discovered hiding in a boat in Watertown and taken into custody, alive.

Ten years later, the Boston Marathon remains strong. The terrorists did not prevail.

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