In a potential breakthrough in the investigation into the Boston Marathon bombing, investigators have isolated images of a suspect carrying and perhaps dropping a black bag believed to have held one of two bombs that exploded 12 seconds apart Monday near the finish line of the historic race, said an official briefed on the investigation.
Authorities were “very close” Wednesday in their pursuit of the bomber, said the official, who declined to be named.
A surveillance camera at the Lord & Taylor store, across Boylston Street from the Forum restaurant where the second bomb exploded, has provided video of the area, though it was unclear whether the image of the suspect came from that camera, the official said.
“The camera from Lord & Taylor is the best source of video so far,” confirmed Dot Joyce, a spokeswoman for Mayor Thomas M. Menino of Boston. “All I know is that they are making progress.”
A second person briefed on the investigation indicated that the image may have come from a cellphone.
Disclosure that a bomber had been caught on camera came on a tumultuous day filled with a seesaw of emotion, due to disputed reports that police had made an arrest in the case, and as Boston prepared to receive President Obama to speak at an interfaith service Thursday.
Journalists and spectators converged on the Moakley federal courthouse Wednesday afternoon, expecting a suspect to be brought in.
Top law enforcement officials denied they had anyone in custody, and the courthouse was evacuated after a bomb threat. After a search of the building, employees and visitors were allowed back inside.
The Marathon Monday explosions killed three people and injured more than 170, many of whom were grievously maimed. On Wednesday, authorities confirmed the identity of the third victim, Boston University graduate student Lingzi Lu, who was from China. Martin Richard, an 8-year-old from Dorchester and 29-year-old Krystle Campbell, a native of Medford, were also killed.
Sixty-two people hurt in the blasts remained at Boston hospitals Wednesday evening; 12 were in critical condition.
President Obama signed an emergency declaration Wednesday for Massachusetts and ordered federal aid to supplement the local response to the bombings.
At the service, to be held at 11 a.m. Thursday at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in the city’s South End, the president will try to comfort a community in deep mourning, as he has done after mass murders at Fort Hood in 2009, Tucson in 2011, and Aurora, Colo.. and Newtown, Conn., in 2012.
Obama will deliver a message “of resolve” to Boston, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday. “It will be [a message] of the commonality that we all feel as Americans with the people of Boston and those who were visiting Boston for the Marathon and who both endured this horrific event and then demonstrated their bravery in its immediate aftermath.”
Michelle Obama is scheduled to accompany the president. She said at a public event in Maryland Wednesday that the attack “was a reminder that in times of crisis, here in America we respond with courage and grit and selflessness. And that is the spirit of Boston, but it is also the spirit of this country.”
The Obamas are scheduled to be in Boston several hours, which suggests they may also be meeting with bombing victims. Governor Deval Patrick said he was uncertain of the president’s itinerary, but “I know that both he and Mrs. Obama have an interest in visiting victims and/or with hospital staff. I think they’re also very cautious of the disruption” caused by a presidential visit and the security it requires.
The Associated Press first reported at about 2 p.m. Wednesday that a suspect had been “taken into custody” and was “expected in federal court” on the South Boston waterfront. AP did not name the source of the information. CNN followed with a tweet saying “arrest made” in the case.
The Globe, relying on information provided by an official familiar with the investigation, sent out tweets and posted a story Wednesday afternoon reporting that a suspect was in custody and en route to federal court. The FBI later issued a statement saying “no arrest has been made,” while other public officials have said no one was in custody. After further reporting, the Globe is no longer convinced that its previously reliable source had accurate information.
Most of the massive 12-block crime scene around Copley Square remained closed for a third day Wednesday, as investigators continued their painstaking search for evidence. Continued...