“There is a huge conundrum here that if you release the photos, if they haven’t fled the Boston area they are going to flee,” Alben said. “You would always prefer to identify them yourself. You always want to apprehend someone when you have control of the situation, not when someone has been tipped you’re coming through the door.”
Alben said investigators were also concerned that the media was publicizing video and photographs from the Marathon, wrongly identifying various people as suspects.
Still, Alben was worried about the decision to go public. “In my mind it was clear that even if someone [from the public] couldn’t identify them, [the suspects] would know we had them,” he said. “I was concerned they would flee the area or would go so far underground you never would be able to find them.”
At 2:50 pm on Thursday, the FBI announced on its website that it would hold a press briefing at 5 p.m.
Thursday, 4:02 p.m.
Anonymous no more
Sixty miles away at UMass Dartmouth, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev used his swipe card to enter his dorm at 4:02 p.m. He had one more hour of anonymity remaining.
It would be the last time he would use his card on campus.
The 19-year-old had already made what would be his last posting on Twitter, the previous day. He retweeted a message from a Saudi scholar, Mufti Ismail Menk: “Attitude can take away your beauty no matter how good looking you are, or it could enhance your beauty, making you adorable.”
After that, silence.
Dzhokhar had enjoyed three days of freedom since the bombings. But he and his brother Tamerlan had failed to prepare for what was coming, as if they had imagined investigators would never track them down.
Dzhokhar’s life as a “stress free kind of guy” who sold pot on the side to raise pocket money was about to end. By the time he arrived back in Cambridge sometime that night, his face would be known to millions, and tips about his identity would be pouring in to federal agents.
“For more than 100 years, the FBI has relied on the public to be its eyes and ears,” DesLauriers, the FBI agent in charge, told the nation at the 5 p.m. press conference. “With the media’s help, in an instant, these images will be delivered directly into the hands of millions around the world. We know the public will play a critical role in identifying and locating them.
“Somebody out there knows these individuals as friends, neighbors, co-workers, or family members of the suspects. Though it may be difficult, the nation is counting on those with information to come forward.
“No bit of information, no matter how small or seemingly inconsequential, is too small. Each piece moves us forward towards justice,” he said.
DesLauriers cautioned the public to be careful, and to consider the two men armed and “extremely dangerous.”
“No one should approach them,” he said. “No one should attempt to apprehend them except law enforcement.”
Back at UMass Dartmouth, Pamala Rolon returned from class and turned on the TV news Thursday night, where pictures of the bombing suspects flashed across the screen. One of them looked faintly like a guy she knew on campus.
“We made a joke, like, that could be Dzhokhar,” she said. “But then we thought it just couldn’t be him. Dzhokhar? Never.”
She wasn’t the only one to see Dzhokhar’s picture on TV and make a joke. One of his Twitter followers even sent him a copy of his image from the FBI pictures, writing, “Is this you? I didn’t know you went to the marathon!!!!”
The brothers’ sudden notoriety may have inspired their belated and desperate plan to escape to New York, where authorities now believe the brothers had drawn a bull’s-eye on their next target: Times Square, the fabled “Crossroads of the World.’’
But the brothers hadn’t set aside money or even a getaway car for the journey — they had to figure that the green Honda Civic Dzhokhar drove would soon be known to police. They were also seriously short on weapons — police recovered only one handgun and a BB gun that they could trace to the pair.
Their apparent hope of adding to that paltry firepower set them on a deadly collision course with Sean A. Collier, a genial police officer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Collier grew up in Wilmington with five siblings who say he was born to be a cop — and he was to begin a new job this summer with the Somerville Police Department.
“He came to see me a couple of months ago and he said, ‘Chief, I have a chance to get on the Somerville Police,” said MIT Police Chief John DiFava. “I said, ‘Sean, you owe me nothing. You’ve done a fine job for me. I would never stand in the way of someone trying to do better for themselves.’’Continued...