A quiet afternoon in his garden beckoned as Governor Deval Patrick left the finish line of the Boston Marathon. After crowning the men’s and women’s winners with wreaths of laurel, he headed home to Milton around 1 p.m., looking forward to working in the dirt.
Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis stayed at the race until 1:30. He was watching runners cross the finish line, but also surveying security measures at America’s oldest and most famous road race, including teams of dogs and more than 1,000 uniformed officers and soldiers.
“Be vigilant,” Davis told them in parting as he headed home to Hyde Park, to join a conference call on gun control convened by Vice President Joe Biden.
It seemed like a perfect day. The Red Sox won at Fenway. A bright sun shone. A glorious holiday, when nothing could go wrong.
Hundreds of thousands of spectators lined the 26.2-mile course from Hopkinton to the Back Bay, many holding signs and offering cups of water to runners. In the city’s favorite rite of spring, they cheered on friends, loved ones, and strangers trailing far behind the clusters of elite athletes.
Few noticed the two young men, one in a black baseball cap, the other in a white hat turned backward, as they rounded the corner from Gloucester Street onto Boylston Street at 2:38 p.m. Each carried a bulky backpack. They strode toward the finish line where just a short time earlier the governor had hugged race organizers.
Along the way, they put down their bags, paused several minutes, and left the scene. Four days later, one of the men would be standing on a street in East Watertown, firing a gun at police, shouting, “You want more? I give you more!”
The Marathon clock, showing the time since the start of the race, flashed 4:09:43. Some 5,700 runners were still on the course. The time was 2:49 p.m. For one final instant, everything was normal.
Then, two explosions ripped through the sidelines of the race, 12 seconds and 214 yards apart, setting in motion a series of extraordinary, unthinkable, indelible events and triggering the largest manhunt in New England history. Thousands of law enforcement officers from dozens of agencies would respond before the end came four days later in a Watertown backyard, after a gunfight in the dead of night on a residential street and an unprecedented lockdown of an entire metropolitan area. Five people would die, 267 more would be injured. The city of Boston would be forever changed.
The army of law enforcement that converged at the site of the bombings — a 15-block swath in one of Boston’s most elegant neighborhoods, now the city’s largest-ever crime scene — faced forensic and tactical challenges new to almost all of them, or at least beyond their prior experience. It was a puzzle of unprecedented difficulty that began, literally, in thousands of broken, scattered pieces.
In more than 100 interviews with police, government officials, residents, and tourists who witnessed the week’s events, Globe reporters sought to reconstruct the actions of law enforcement agents between the April 15 bombing that killed three people on Boylston Street and the capture of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev seven miles away in Watertown on April 19 after his brother Tamerlan was killed, the conclusion of an epic 102-hour manhunt that left one police officer dead and another badly injured. The newspaper inquiry turned up scores of new details, fleshed out the hard questions law enforcement confronted along the way, and the harder decisions it was forced to make. It also helped put many previously reported elements in proper order and context. A maelstrom of information — some factual, some speculative, some flat wrong — followed in the wake of the calamity, as it always does in times of tumult. This story aims to assemble what is known, and remains to be seen, in one consecutive account.
Minutes after the blasts, Davis, the police commissioner, got a call from Daniel P. Linskey, his superintendent in chief.
“I’m not sure what we got, boss,” Linskey told him, sirens wailing in the background, “but I think it’s bad. I’m hearing multiple amputations.”
With that, Davis said, he knew it was terrorism: “I started to operate on the premise it was an attack.”
Boston Police Superintendent William Evans was relaxing in a sauna at a South Boston health club, recovering from running the Marathon, when he got the call about the bombs. He ran home, donned his uniform, and commandeered a utility truck to get to work.
The governor was in his car when his daughter Katherine called him from the Back Bay.Continued...