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Officials in Watertown field calls from worried residents

Posted by Your Town  April 19, 2013 05:46 PM

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Officials in Watertown have been fielding calls all day, but say they have little information to offer residents who have been asking what’s going on.

Council President Mark Sideris said he has been fielding calls from constituents, friends and relatives, including a cousin who lives a few houses away from where police action was heaviest in the East End of town, to find out the latest and to express worry over the lingering search for suspected bomber Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev.

“The calls I’ve been getting this afternoon are from people concerned that we don’t have a suspect in custody,” Sideris said.

Although he has been in regular communication with Town Manager Michael Driscoll all day, Sideris said he does not know any more than he did this morning.

“It’s status quo. All I’ve been asked to do continue to do is give the message that people need to stay in their homes, and lock the doors,” he said.

Sideris called the massive law enforcement presence, as well as the international media scrum chronicling every move by police, “unbelievable.”

“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” he said, noting that today’s event dwarfs even the 2010 capture of Times Square bombing suspects in Watertown. “This is 100 times more than that.”

“Everyone available to work” from the town’s police, fire, ambulance, and public works departments has been pressed into service, he said.

At a midday press conference, Watertown police chief Edward Deveau thanked residents for their cooperation and urged patience.

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“There’s nobody out,” said Town Councilor Angeline Kounelis, who lives two blocks from Coolidge Square on Keenan Street and represents the district of Watertown where the search for the bombing suspect Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev continues.

Kounelis said she was awoken by a reverse 911 call shortly after 2 a.m. advising the public to lock their doors and stay indoors until directed otherwise by police.

Since then, Kounelis said, email bulletins sent from the Town Manager’s office to councilors and department heads have simply informed residents that the town’s emergency alert system had been activated and that administrative offices would be closed all day. No details about what police are doing and on which streets or how long the process will continue, she said.

“I’m personally relying on the news media for updates,” Kounelis said.

Kounelis said her street was swept by a Boston SWAT team around 4 p.m. today.

Two pairs of armed officers stationed themselves at each end of Keenan Street, which runs between Belmont and Mt. Auburn streets, sealing off all foot and vehicular traffic.

Two officers with weapons drawn then approached each home one by one, knocking on every door, while another pair of officers walked the perimeter of each building, she said.

An armored transport vehicle and an SUV slowly rolled down the street, Kounelis added, stopping in front of each residence while a search was conducted.

The officers asked her if she and her 94 year old mother, who lives in an apartment upstairs, were okay. Kounelis replied they were, she said.

A neighbor of Kounelis was detained by officers at the end of the street for several minutes and required to show his driver's license before being allowed to go to his home, she said.

Officers appeared to be guarding the end of every street from Keenan Street to the Cambridge city line, a distance of four blocks, she said.

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It has been a particularly brutal day for Laurie McManus. The longtime Watertown school committee member said her 20-year-old son first heard the buzz of helicopters overhead very early Friday morning and woke her immediately. The noise meant more to the pair than just an irritating and unusual disruption. McManus’s husband, Thomas McManus, is the town’s deputy fire chief and was, at that very moment, finishing up the back end of a 24-hour shift that morning.

Flipping on the TV confirmed their biggest fears. “There it was, unfolding,” she said.

Besides the stress that most feel from the uncertainty of a terrorist on the loose, McManus said her worry is deeply personal.

“I have my husband out there in the middle of it, not knowing it will be over and when he will come home,” she said.

All she knows is from a quick call from her husband around 8 a.m. Friday morning to tell her that he would not be coming home as expected and that he didn’t know when or if he would be relieved from the command center set up at the Arsenal Mall where he’s been posted.

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