WATERTOWN — Thursday night started out normally for Andrew Kitzenberg. He was settled on his couch on the second floor of his three-story walkup in Watertown, watching a hockey game and getting ready to turn in for the night.
But then he heard gunshots.
“It sounded like fireworks or firecrackers — you know, ‘pop-pop-pop-pop,’’’ Kitzenberg said today.
Kitzenberg ran up to his bedroom on the third floor, lay on his bed stomach-down, and peeked out of his windowsill to view the action, taking pictures with his phone.
Kitzenberg, who has lived on Laurel Street in Watertown for three years, landed an unexpected front-row seat to a shootout between the Tsarnaev brothers and various police entities in the wee hours of Friday morning when the two Boston Marathon bombing suspects opened fire right in front of Kitzenberg’s house.
As events unfolded, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, was shot fatally and run over by his younger brother, Dzhokhar, 19, in his desperate attempt to escape. Dzhokhar was captured the next evening in a boat parked behind a house on Franklin Street in Watertown.
Kitzenberg tweeted his photos, and has now doubled his Twitter followers to nearly 30,000, he said. The New York Times called him immediately, and by 3 a.m., various other media outlets were hoping to interview him. Kitzenberg posted his photos in a blog to better describe what he saw. But the pictures had been removed by late this afternoon.
During the shootout, Kitzenberg said, a bullet pierced the wall of his roommate’s bedroom on the second floor, went through a calendar, and ended up lodged in a desk chair.
Shortly after the gunfire began, Kitzenberg said he watched the two men on the street hurl explosives at police. He said they threw two smaller explosive devices, and then reached into a backpack — Kitzenberg said he saw them with up to three backpacks at their feet — and pulled out a pressure cooker.
“I saw them light that one – I saw the spark,’’ Kitzenberg said. He pointed to a black spot on the street about 15 feet away to show where the bomb left its mark. “I heard and felt it go off,’’ Kitzenberg added, noting that he dropped down to his floor once he saw the spark. “The walls were rattling. At that point, I absolutely knew these were the guys who did the Boston Marathon bombs.’’
Kitzenberg said the two brothers were using a black SUV in front of them for protection, as the officers opened fire down at the other end of his block. The brothers also had a green sedan behind them, but Kitzenberg said he did not see any police coming in from that direction.
After the pressure cooker bomb, one of the brothers — now known as Tamerlan — began walking through the smoke toward police, shooting his handgun at them, Kitzenberg said, until he went down.
“He got pretty close – probably 15 to 20 feet from them,’’ Kitzenberg said.
Kitzenberg said it was hard to tell if a bullet or a tackle by an officer took Tamerlan down, but what happened next stunned him.
“I saw the other guy get into the black SUV, turned it around, and just charged toward the police barricade,’’ Kitzenberg said. “I was so shocked he would do that move. I felt like I was seeing something right out of a movie.’’
Dzhokhar was able to slip the SUV through two police cars, side-swiping them as he barreled through, Kitzenberg said.
“I was feeling mostly shock and adrenaline,’’ Kitzenberg said.
He declined to comment on if the FBI had contacted him for information on what happened.