A young businessman from China briefly held hostage by two men, whom he later identified as Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, testified at the Boston Marathon bombing trial Thursday, calling his choice to run from his captors “the most difficult decision’’ of his life.
Dun Meng said he left work around 10:30 p.m. on April 18, 2013 and decided to drive along the Charles River to “relax.’’ After turning down Brighton Avenue in Boston, Meng told the jury at John Joseph Moakley Courthouse he pulled over to respond to a text message.
Suddenly, a sedan pulled behind him, with its male driver exiting to approach Meng’s driver-side window. Meng told the jury he thought the motorist just wanted directions. Instead, the driver — whom he later identified as Tamerlan Tsarnaev — jumped in the SUV and put a gun to his head.
“He told me, ‘Don’t be stupid,’’’ said Meng, adding that the older Tsarnaev brother took responsibility for the marathon bombing and killing a police officer in Cambridge less than an hour earlier.
“The whole world, everybody is looking for [the Tsarnaevs],’’ Meng told the courtroom. “I can’t believe I just met them.’’
Tsarnaev told Meng to drive and followed up with questions about how long Meng had been in the United States, what brought him to the country and — most chillingly — “does anyone care about you?’’
After about 20 to 30 minutes of driving, Meng said he pulled into Dexter Street in Watertown, where the sedan again pulled up behind. Tsarnaev left the vehicle to help his brother Dzhokhar move materials from the sedan into the SUV.
Meng was ordered in the passenger seat, with Dzhokhar behind him and Tamerlan at the wheel. Tamerlan then drove to a Bank of America ATM, where Dzhokhar withdrew $800 from Meng’s checking account. Tamerlan continued to pepper Meng with questions: Did his car have a GPS system? (It did, but Meng lied and said, “No.’’). Could the car travel far? Could it make it to New York?
As the group continued driving west, Meng received a text message from his roommate: “Where are you? It’s dangerous outside.’’
Tamerlan asked Meng what the message — written in Chinese — meant, and replied “no’’ in Chinese with use of the phone’s English-to-Chinese dictionary function. Then, the phone rang with a call from another one of Meng’s roommates, also Chinese.
“[Tamerlan] told me, ‘If you say anything in Chinese, I’ll kill you right now,’’’ Meng said.
Meng answered the phone, but said his roommate was only further confused by his out-of-place English and insistence that he would stay at a friend’s home for the night.
The group made one last stop at a Shell gas station on Memorial Drive in Cambridge. Dzhokhar left the car to buy gas and snacks, leaving Meng alone with Tamerlan in the car.
Though Tamerlan’s gun was within arm’s reach in the side-door pocket, he appeared to be distracted, Meng said. Meng knew this might be his chance and broke down all of the actions he’d need to take before his escape: unbuckling his seat belt, unlocking the door, opening the car door, running.
“I counted down in my mind: 4, 3, 2, 1,’’ Meng told the jury.
He went. Meng said he could hear Tamerlan yell, as, now free, Meng raced across the street to another gas station, where he frantically begged a cashier to call 911.
Meng told emergency dispatchers that the two men who stole his car admitted to bombing the Boston Marathon and were driving his GPS-equipped SUV, which police soon tracked to Watertown.