Colonel Alben, the State Police chief, briefed Patrick on Wednesday about the key piece of video showing Dzhokhar abandoning his backpack. Alben described the clip and showed the governor photographs culled from the footage, information that Patrick called “chilling.”
“We have a break,” Patrick remembers him saying. “We think we have a face.”
If further proof was needed that the city was on edge, the anxiety soon spilled over into view. By 1 p.m., news reports began surfacing that a suspect had been not only identified but arrested, and was headed to the federal courthouse. Hundreds of reporters and photographers descended on the Moakley courthouse in South Boston. The Coast Guard and Boston Police Department Harbor Patrol patrolled nearby waters.
Relying on information from a source familiar with the investigation, the Globe posted a report online for a short time Wednesday that a suspect was in custody and en route to federal court. The FBI later issued a statement denying the arrest.
Inside, courthouse staff members, including some from the US attorney’s office, flocked to the emergency magistrate’s courtroom, anticipating a hearing, based on breaking news reports from the Associated Press, CNN, and others.
Court staff began discussing whether they should move the hearing to a larger courtroom with more seating, and whether to provide a live, closed-circuit feed to yet another courtroom, in anticipation of an overflow crowd. Watching the drama unfold on live television, the US attorney’s office denied the reports of an arrest, and called court officials to tell them there would be no hearing.
But by then, word of the arrest turned into an avalanche of chaos, silenced only by the “code red” that was broadcast over the intercom at 3:01 p.m. The building’s management company had received a bomb threat, and the US Marshals Service ordered an evacuation. Outside, judges mixed with members of the public who had come to catch a glimpse of the commotion.
It was a code none of the lawyers had heard before, and none of them knew what it meant. But they could tell from the seriousness in the announcer’s voice that something was up.
“This was different; this was louder,” Boston-based lawyer Jonathan Shapiro thought as he descended seven flights of stairs to exit the building. Outside, seeing the patrol boats with machine guns and the crowd in the streets, he was struck by the oddness of the moment.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said.
After a sweep by federal agents, the area was cleared at 4:41 p.m., and courthouse employees were allowed back in.
As the hours passed and the suspects’ identities remained elusive, pressure was mounting inside the command center, now at FBI headquarters across from City Hall.
A key question, with game-changing consequences, was bearing down on the men in charge: to release the photos to the public or to hold them close?
The wrong move could be deadly. But with the bombers still at large, they had to decide soon.
Thursday, 11 a.m.
Beginning to heal
Under soaring stone arches, in light filtered by stained glass, hundreds of residents sought comfort Thursday morning inside the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. Outside, bomb-sniffing dogs patrolled the streets, but inside there were words of encouragement and healing.
“That’s what you’ve taught us, Boston,” President Obama said at the interfaith service. “To persevere. To not grow weary. To not get faint. Even when it hurts. Even when our heart aches. We summon the strength . . . and we carry on. We finish the race.”
Investigators, too, had a race to finish. And it was almost time for the final sprint.
As the president traveled from the packed cathedral to the Boston hospitals where he sat with victims, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano became the first official to say publicly that there may be two suspects. She told the House Homeland Security Committee “there is some video that raised the question” of two men the FBI would like to interview in connection with the bombings. She did not share any details about the video.
In Boston, meanwhile, law enforcement leaders were debating their next step. State Police Chief Alben said FBI, Boston Police, and State Police leaders wrangled over whether to release the photos of the suspects. Everyone weighed in, but the final call was the feds’.
The potential payoff — a quick ID from a tipster — was huge, given that the bombers were still out there on the loose and could be plotting another attack. But the risks weighed heavily on them.Continued...