WARNING GRAPHIC IMAGES: Bombings at the Boston Marathon finish line killed three people and wounded at least 176 on April 15, 2013. Dzhokar Tsarnaev, 19, has been charged in the attack.
BOSTON – The first three Boston police officers to approach a boat where the only surviving marathon bombing suspect was hiding say they backed off after movement inside led them to call for reinforcements.
Police Superintendent William Evans, Lt. Paul O'Connor and Detective Lt. Robert Mener said at a news conference Tuesday they approached the boat, in the backyard of a suburban Watertown house, just after a call the suspect might be there.
Evans said they saw movement that looked like the suspect wanted to poke a hole in a tarp covering the boat or get a handgun free.
That's when they called for FBI tactical units and officers flooded the area Friday, eventually apprehending the suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, whose brother had died earlier after a shootout with police.
"Our biggest concern, obviously, was the safety of officers, you know, when you have show up like that, you worry about cross fire," Evans said.
The fear about gunfire was realized within the first five to 10 minutes when shots were fired from behind the house while Evans and other officers were covering the front of the house. Evans said it wasn't clear who fired the first shots and he doesn't know if the suspect was found with a weapon in the boat.
The gunshots forced Evans, who was the incident commander on the ground, to order all officers to hold their fire and wait for a tactical FBI unit to come and get Tsarnaev out of the boat.
"Obviously, that was ... quite a highly stressed type situation and we were having all kind of help running in when they were hearing us on the radio, but I continued to stress we're all set, all we need is a tactical team" and "try to bring him out safely without anyone being injured," Evans said.
Tsarnaev was found shortly after a daylong search in Watertown, which was virtually locked down as authorities went house to house, had apparently ended in failure.
"The officers were asking `How should we deal with the residents?' and we made it clear: `As courteous and as professional as possible, yet getting the job done,"' Evans said.
A local man soon noticed the cover of his boat was out of place. He looked inside the boat, noticed blood and called police.
Evans said police were still nearby after Watertown residents' stay-at-home order was lifted because they were frustrated Tsarnaev hadn't been caught and wanted to finish the job.
"We had a mission. We wanted to catch this guy for what he did, not only for the poor victims, but what he did to our marathon and what he did to our city," Evans said.
Mener said Tsarnaev but didn't respond to initial attempts to communicate, even though shouts from various officers setting up around the boat and evacuating neighboring homes made it clear Tsarnaev was surrounded.
But after the FBI team used stun grenades to subdue Tsarnaev, he gave himself up, Evans said.
He said transit police put the handcuffs on Tsarnaev in a symbolic gesture after an MBTA officer was badly wounded during a firefight with the two suspects in Watertown on Friday morning.
Tsarnaev, who was wounded and bloody when found, was hospitalized in fair condition. He was charged Monday with joining forces with his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, in setting off the shrapnel-packed pressure cooker bombs, which killed three people. His father has called him a "true angel," and an aunt has said he's not guilty.
Tsarnaev taken into custody after the FBI team specializing in negotiating with suspects and rescuing hostages overpowered him with stun grenades.
"He followed the instruction of the negotiators, that's part of the negotiation -- basically instructing him exactly what he is to do, how he is to surrender and be brought to custody -- he followed the instruction of the negotiator," Mener said.
"That was great closure for us," Evans said. "We happened to be right there when the call came in and actually we took control of that scene that ended up in the capture of this suspect," he said.