Police describe battling marathon bombers in escape attempt
BOSTON (AP) — Three police officers on Monday described an onslaught of gunfire and bombs during a confrontation with the Boston Marathon bombers days after the attack and one suspect’s escape in a stolen car that ended with his dragging his brother’s lifeless body through the street.
The Watertown officers, testifying Monday in the federal death penalty trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, described a gun battle that began early on April 19, 2013, after an officer spotted a carjacked Mercedes SUV on a quiet residential street.
During the ensuing shootout, officers said, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his brother, Tamerlan, hurled explosives at police, including two pipe bombs and one pressure-cooker bomb similar to the bombs used near the marathon finish line that killed three people and injured more than 260 others.
Joseph Reynolds, the first officer there, said he “locked eyes” with the driver of the stolen SUV, a man later identified as Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Reynolds said Tamerlan Tsarnaev got out of the car and began firing at him.
“All I could see was muzzle flashes,” he said. “I couldn’t count it. It was nonstop.”
The shots continued as other officers began to arrive, Reynolds said.
He saw a wick and a lighter and then watched as an object flew through the air, landed in the street and exploded, he said, shaking him to his knees.
“I could feel all the debris landing on top of me,” he said.
Sgt. Jeffrey Pugliese said he cut through backyards to get closer to the bombers and eventually could see their feet illuminated by car headlights. He said he aimed at the ground near their feet to have the bullets ricochet into their ankles.
While he was doing that, Tamerlan saw him and came charging up the street firing at him, said Pugliese, who fired back.
The two men came face to face, Pugliese said. But Tamerlan had a problem with his pistol, the officer said.
“He kind of looked at his gun. He looked at me. We looked at each other,” Pugliese said. “I think out of frustration, he threw his gun at me.”
Pugliese said Tamerlan began to run away, but he tackled him. Tamerlan continued to struggle as three officers tried to handcuff him, even though he was wounded and bleeding, Pugliese said.
That’s when they saw the stolen car speeding toward them with Dzhokhar behind the wheel, Pugliese said.
The officer stepped out of the witness box to demonstrate how he tried to pull Tamerlan out of the way and rolled over to get out of the car’s path himself.
“The black SUV, it was right in my face,” he said. “I looked down, and I saw the front wheels were over Tamerlan.”
Dzhokhar ran over his brother and dragged his body 25 to 30 feet (up to 9 meters), Pugliese said. He also struck a police car before he made his escape.
After a massive manhunt and door-to-door search, Dzokhar was found hiding in a boat parked in a backyard in Watertown.
Earlier Monday, jurors went to see the bullet-ridden boat, which was brought to a location in South Boston. The Associated Press was one of two news organizations and three courtroom sketch artists allowed to see the boat and provide pool coverage for the media.
Tsarnaev’s lawyer admitted during opening statements that he participated in the bombings and the later crimes but said Tamerlan was the mastermind who recruited the then 19-year-old Dzhokhar to help him.
Prosecutors say Tsarnaev was a full and willing participant. Now 21, he faces the possibility of the death penalty if convicted.
The same jury that decides guilt will decide whether he receives life in prison or the death penalty.