Then he instructed Danny to pull over on a side street in East Watertown. A Honda Civic sedan that Danny had noticed following him stopped behind the Mercedes. A younger man approached – the shaggy-haired “Suspect No. 2’’ in the photos and videos released by authorities just hours earlier. Tamerlan got out, ordered Danny into the front passenger seat, and warned him that if he tried anything he would shoot him. For several minutes, the brothers moved heavy objects from the smaller car into Danny’s SUV; Danny figured it was luggage.
Tamerlan took the wheel and his brother got in the back seat, leaving the Honda behind. Danny looked at the younger man and recognized Dzhokhar from the FBI images.
“I saw his face because he had a clear picture,’’ Danny said. “I was 100 percent sure that he was really similar to that guy.’’
At one point, Danny asked Tamerlan, “Are you going to hurt me?’’
“I’m not going to hurt you,’’ he replied. “We’re just going to drop you off. . . . Probably you’ll have to walk 4 or 5 miles to find anybody, and if you are lucky, somebody will pick you up.’’
The Mercedes stopped in front of a Bank of America ATM in Watertown Center. The younger brother got out and withdrew an estimated $800. Danny debated bolting from the Mercedes. He implored the older man to let him unbuckle his seatbelt and put on a jacket in the back seat because he was cold.
“This is a good time to run,’’ he thought. “But it was just so tough.’’
As religious music blared over the stereo, Danny received a text message from his roommate just before midnight. Tamerlan demanded to know who was texting and what was she saying.
He grabbed the phone and used an English-to-Chinese app to text a response that Danny was sick and sleeping at a friend’s house. The message was riddled with grammatical errors. His roommate, alarmed, texted again.
Seconds later, at 12:03 a.m., the roommate’s boyfriend called. Tamerlan was furious.
He took out the silver gun and pointed it at Danny.
“Answer it,” ordered Tamerlan. “If you say a single word in Chinese, I will kill you right now.”
Danny pleaded and prayed. He asked Tamerlan precisely what to tell his friend so that he didn’t make a mistake.
“Where are you?” his roommate asked in Mandarin.
“I’m gonna sleep in my friend’s place tonight,” Danny replied in English as he stared at the gun. “I’m sorry I have to go.”
Tamerlan congratulated him on a job well done.
Tamerlan drove down Soldiers Field Road, passed Harvard Business School, turned left on a bridge in front of the Doubletree Hotel, and then another left into the Shell Station on Memorial Drive to buy gas.
“Maybe I have a chance,” Danny thought. “It’s my last chance to get out.”
Tamerlan pulled up the car with the gas pumps on the right, next to Danny. Dzhokhar got out with Danny’s credit card to pay for the gas.
It was around 12:15, an hour and a half since he was abducted. Danny realized it was a critical moment: The doors were unlocked. Dzhokhar was in the store. The gun was tucked in the driver’s side door. And Tamerlan was distracted, struggling with the GPS device he had brought with him on the carjacking.
“I was thinking I must do two things: unfasten my seatbelt and open the door and jump out as quick as I can. If I didn’t make it, he would kill me right out, he would kill me right away,” Danny said.
Tamerlan tried to grab his jacket. But Danny slammed the door, leaving his phone in the vehicle. He ran behind the SUV at an angle to avoid potential gunshots. “F---!” Tamerlan screamed as Danny darted across River Street to a Mobil Station that had the lights on.
In the instant that Danny sprinted to freedom and toward a 911 telephone call, the brothers were now fully exposed.
They were driving a stolen vehicle.
They were the most wanted men in New England.
And as they roared out of Shell’s parking lot and onto Memorial Drive, they pointed the black Mercedes toward Watertown.
Friday, 12:44 a.m.
Shoot-out in Watertown
Watertown Police Officer Joseph Reynolds’s midnight to 8 a.m. shift had barely begun when police frequencies erupted with news of abduction and mayhem next door in Cambridge.
“Wanted for carjacking that occurred in Cambridge, possibly related to the Cambridge incident,” said the State Police dispatcher, referring to the shooting at MIT. “Middle Eastern males, the victim stated they both had handguns … during the conversation, the victim gathered they were possibly heading to New York City.”
In fact, the black SUV stolen by the Tsarnaev brothers was nowhere near New York City. The global positioning system on the vehicle, which emitted tiny traceable electronic signals, showed that the Mercedes was less than 5 miles from their apartment – and heading Reynolds’s way. Continued...