It was an extraordinary order and within moments it ricocheted around the world: A major American city is now under lockdown. Wall-to-wall television coverage showed battalions of helmeted police officers in Watertown and the nearly empty streets of what otherwise would have been the bustling streets of Boston.
Alben, the State Police colonel, promised Patrick that the tactical units would not stop until the younger of the alleged bombers was in custody.
“We are going to start going house to house on every single street,’’ Alben recalled. “This is something that is easier said than done. We’re going to knock on every person’s door and hope to have a conversation and ask to go into the house.’’
More dogs were brought in. Watertown issued reverse 911 alerts to residents about what was happening outside their windows. People began tweeting about what was going on in their backyards.
At dawn, five tactical teams were at work, each with 16 to 33 members.
The tactical units and other officers knocked on hundreds of doors to ask if anything seemed amiss and searched room-by-room if requested. They checked yards, sheds and other structures, including Sarina Tcherepnin’s barn next to her rambling yellow house on Franklin Street.
She told the officers around 9 a.m. that the doors are usually unlocked. It looked like a good hiding place. In fact, it was around the corner from where Tsarnaev was eventually found.
The officers searched it, but Tcherepnin said she and her husband had to suggest that they also examine the cellar of the barn.
“They were great,’’ she said. “But they didn’t look in the basement of the barn, which would seem an obvious place.’’
Across the street at Robert Vercollone’s green Victorian house, which the software consultant was remodeling, a State Police tactical officer aimed a gun at his pick-up truck loaded with yard trash. On the other side of the house, an officer pointed a flashlight at the latticework underneath his porch, which had a gaping hole because of ongoing plumbing repairs.
“It’s the perfect size for somebody to crawl through,” said Vercollone. “But he didn’t poke around any further.”
Residents universally praised the officers for being polite and helping to maintain a quiet calm over a panicked neighborhood.
People offered water and oranges to members of tactical teams. Though locked indoors, residents tried to carry on as normally as possible, planning a bar mitzvah, taking a nap, keeping little kids who were on school vacation away from televisions with scary images of the manhunt.
Throughout the day, there were multiple false alarms, at times interrupting search work as tactical units were called in to clear the area.
“A woman sends a text saying she was being held against her will by a man,’’ Superintendent Evans said. “It turns out she had some psychological issues. So we were running around all day long for suspicious people — residents hearing footsteps upstairs that weren’t supposed to be there.’’
Other dead-end tips were chased: Someone was running into a home on Oak Street; a 65-year-old man had a suspicious device on Arsenal Street; a man speaking Russian near reporters crossed a secure line.
“At least a dozen [times] just inside the perimeter, and then at the same time in the command post, we’re hearing different stuff that didn’t turn out to be accurate but you have to run it down,’’ said Deveau.
As evening approached, the Watertown chief worried.
“I’m not sure he’s gone . . . Did we have another carjacking that we didn’t get reports of?” Deveau said. “My other concern was that it was going to be dark in an hour and a half or two and it was going to give him a chance to move again if he was still here.”
By 5 p.m., with Dzhokhar still at large, Evans and his troops were feeling the weight of their work. They were living off bottled water and granola bars and — occasionally — searching for the nearest bathroom
“One poor old lady, I said, ‘Can I use your bathroom?’ She said, ‘It’s cluttered.’
“My mood was, we hadn’t finished our job,’’ Evans said. “Some of my officers were calling for release. I said, ‘Let’s hang in there. Let’s hang in there.’ ”
Evans was aware of the image of such a large police presence — by one estimate more than 1,000 officers — on the streets of an American city.
“We wanted to make sure people weren’t intimidated by us,’’ said Evans, saying they tried to put people at ease. “We were very careful about not upsetting the public. I felt awful when I looked at some people we asked to leave their house. . . . They were intimidated. We had weaponry, armored cars. We must have been very intimidating.’’Continued...