At the 2013 Boston Marathon, two explosions happened at about 2:50 p.m. (within a 10-minute window of the average marathon-runner’s finish time), more than two hours after the first of the race’s nearly 27,000 runners had crossed the finish line. The explosions went off near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday, killing at least three people (including an 8-year-old boy who was waiting for his father to cross the finish line) and injuring nearly 200 more, as runners completed the course, and thousands cheered them on. A third blast at the John F. Kennedy Library was initially thought to be related but later attributed to fire. Witnesses described victims and frightened civilians running for cover while others sprinted towards the blast site in order to help the injured.
Witness Serghino Rene told NBC News:
“We saw two big puffs. I thought maybe it was fireworks. Then it went off again. And then all of a sudden we heard people crying and running away. It was a huge horde of people just running away. We just got away from the scene and away from tall buildings.”
The carnage was massive.
Rumors quickly surfaced regarding additional undetonated devices being found along the marathon route. Police promptly stopped runners who had not finished before the Massachusetts Avenue overpass on Commonwealth Avenue. They then began searching all suspect packages, many of which had been left behind by a frightened, fleeing public.
Shortly after the explosion, a photograph surfaced, catching the precise moment of the first blast. Keen-eyed viewers noted a suspicious person atop a nearby building was caught in the photo. In the photo below you can see a man (top left) who appears to be moving quickly towards the stairwell located on top of the roof. Additional photos surfaced of others on rooftops near the finish line, many appearing to be police snipers.
Blast patterns and evidence of the carnage were captured by photographers after the blasts. It appeared as if the bombs were rudimentary devices – explosives filled with ball-bearing, lead-pellet, or metal nails shrapnel, likely triggered by an electronic device, such as a cellphone, or a timer. Both devices were located on the northern side of Boylston Street. The first device appeared to have been located directly across the street from the Boston Public Library while the second was across the street from the Mandarin Hotel. Using Google Maps and a list of public mailboxes, it was noted that there were public mailboxes in the locations of both bombs leading many to guess early on that they may have somehow been used in the bombings, possibly as a visual shield or for placement of the devices themselves.
Later, officials released information indicating that a pressure cooker, filled with shrapnel, and placed in a black nylon backpack, had been used as the explosive device. This type of bomb is not rare and in fact, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security had already released a confidential document warning of the rising number of “pressure cooker” bombs earlier. In the document, Homeland Security warned:
In September 2003, India’s security forces in Jammu foiled a major terrorist attack during the Navratra celebrations by seizing 40 kg of an explosive, RDX, which was put in two large pressure cookers.
In March 2003, four Algerians, three of whom admitted training in Afghan terror camps, were convicted of plotting to bomb a French Christmas market using pressure cookers packed with explosives.
In February 2002, two pressure cooker bombs were used in an attack on the old tower of Lukla Airport, shattering windows and blowing off the tin roof. Lukla Airport is located in the gateway to Solokhumbu at the foot of Mount Everest.
February 2001, Maoist Rebels used two pressure cooker bombs in an attack on a convoy containing judicial officials. Four policemen on the escort team died instantly.
Typically, these bombs are made by placing TNT or other explosives in a pressure cooker and attaching a blasting cap at the top of the pressure cooker. The size of the blast depends on the size of the pressure cooker and the amount of explosive placed inside. Pressure cooker bombs are made with readily available materials and can be as simple or as complex as the builder decides. These types of devices can be initiated using simple electronic components including, but not limited to, digital watches, garage door openers, cell phones or pagers. As a common cooking utensil, the pressure cooker is often overlooked when searching vehicles, residences or merchandise crossing the U.S. Borders
On My 24, 2012, the Boston Globe published an article that may have been used as a blueprint for the Boston Marathon bombings. The article detailed the use of a pressure cooker explosive device in the 2012 Fort Hood bombing attempt. In that foiled attempt, the soldier responsible admitted to using a bomb-making “recipe” he found in an Al Qaeda-linked online magazine.
Later photographs showed a suspicious white bag located next to a public mailbox. The bag looked to be in precisely the spot where videos showed the explosion to occur. That the bag was white, and not black as authorities had indicated, could indicate that authorities purposely released inaccurate information for investigative reasons.
The photo below shows the suspicious bag located to the left of the public USPS mailbox.
This photo captures the moment of the explosion which looks to be originating from the white bag.
These photos show the aftermath which lends further evidence that the white bag was the source of the explosion.
In this photo, investigators are clearly giving extra attention to the area to the left of the mailbox.
The following shows remnants of the pressure cooker device used in the bombing. The pressure cooker lid was found on the roof of a nearby building.
Within hours of the explosion, investigators issued a BOLO (Be on the Lookout) warning police to be on the lookout for a “darker-skinned or black male” with a possible foreign accent in connection with the attack. The man was seen with a black backpack and sweatshirt and was trying to get into a restricted area about five minutes before the first explosion.
Internet sleuths began scouring the web for photographs and many “suspects” were pointed out. For instance, when authorities announced they were interested in a man wearing a black jacket and wearing a white cap placed on his head backwards, the photo below emerged of a man, wearing a white cap, who when all was said and done, appeared to just be checking his cellphone.
Soon after, these men were pointed out in photographs. Both wore dark jackets, caps, and carried heavy-looking backpacks. However, many felt they were military or police and possible acting as plainclothes policemen.
Then this man in a blue jacket drew attention, primarily because the backpack he carried looked identical to the remnants of the bag found in the street. The lack of a cap and dark jacket though, did not match descriptions given by the authorities.
But the pictures that looked to be the most promising were the ones below which showed two men, not one, carrying backpacks and according to some, acting in suspicious manners and not paying much attention to the race. The two were widely discussed on Reddit and Imgur and from broadcaster descriptions, these two men seemed to be the ones the FBI were closing in on. They were even mentioned as suspects in prominent newspaper reports. However, shortly thereafter, family members of the men came forth asking the public to cease circulating their photographs as they were innocent of the public’s unwarranted accusations.
In the end, it was security surveillance video, which only the police and FBI possessed, that conclusively identified the bombers. The Wall Street Journal explained the sequence of events that were shown on the complete surveillance video.
The video and photos provided by federal prosecutors showed the two brothers carrying backpacks as they walk onto Boylston Street, the scene of the bombings, about 11 minutes before the first blast occurred at 2:49 p.m., the affidavit said.
At about 2:42 p.m., Tamerlan Tsarnaev, accused of planting the bomb that caused the first blast nearest the finish line, left his brother and was seen carrying the backpack that investigators believe contained the first bomb, according to the affidavit.
Three minutes later, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev walked toward the Forum restaurant and left a backpack on the ground, according to video surveillance cited in the affidavit. About 30 seconds before the first bomb exploded, video footage shows him looking at his cellphone and then lifting the phone to his ear as if to speak, the FBI affidavit said.
A few seconds after his apparent call, the first explosion a block away drew the crowd’s attention, but Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, “virtually alone among the individuals in front of the restaurant, appears calm,” the affidavit said.
He glanced toward the blast and then walked in the other direction rapidly but calmly, it said. Ten seconds later, the second blast occurred, and evidence shows the backpack Mr. Tsarnaev left behind in front of the Forum restaurant is the only thing that could have caused the second blast, according to the affidavit.
The saga began to end on the night of Thursday, April 18th at around 7:30 PM when a 7/11 convenience store was robbed. Shortly afterward, a 26-year-old MIT police officer, Sean A. Collier, was fatally shot while he sat in his car. The two suspects hijacked a Mercedes SUV at gunpoint in Cambridge, boldly telling the driver that they were the Boston Bombers. A police chase ensued while the Boston Bombers hurled explosives out the car window at pursuing authorities. Police returned fire and one suspect, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was wounded. Tamerlan was taken to the hospital where he died.
The men were brothers, with strong Islamic backgrounds – 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his younger brother 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, both recent immigrants to the United States.
After reviewing widely circulated photos again, there was one of the suspects. The bomb bag was barely visible in the photograph.
Soon after, Facebook photos of one bomber calmly leaving the scene surfaced.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s, using his Americanized name Jahar, Twitter account (@J_tsar) was found online and America began to understand at least one of the minds responsible for the Boston Marathon attacks. It was clear from the tweets that Jahar was evolving his Islamic views. Several vague tweets to @therealAbdul_ (a private Twitter account that was quickly deleted after the attacks) hinted at involvement in the black market, a hardening of his Muslim beliefs, and even a discussion around the Boston Marathon. A few Tweets in particular, some posted just days before the attack, seemed an eerie harbinger of things to come:
“See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil – until the morning alarm goes off and all hell unleashes.”
“September 10th baby! You know what tommorow is. Party at my house!”
“Never underestimate the rebel with a cause.”
“But when we consider prophet Muhammad (s.a.a.w.) as our role model, that’s when we achieve true success and a path to Jannah.”
“I meet the most amazing people. Just spent the day with this Jamaican Muslim convert who shared his whole story with me. My religion is the truth.”
“I’m from the murder capital – where they murder for capital.”
“People that don’t know how to apologize will be sorry some day.”
“Karma will hit you after I do.”
Here’s a collection of Dzhokhar (Jahar) Tsarnaev’s tweets, which along with listed media “favorites” and other comments, portray him as an insecure, sometimes angry, Islamic fundamentalist:
The city of Boston was put on “lockdown” with residents instructed to stay indoors, lock their homes, and only open the door to properly identified police officers. As the city waited, authorities cordoned off the area and slowly boxed the single surviving suspect in. The break came hours later when police notified residents that they could finally leave their homes. A man ventured outside for some fresh air and noticed that the tarp on his boat was flapping in the wind. He investigated the boat, noticed blood and “something curled in a ball” towards the back of the boat. He immediately called police who arrived and whisked the family away so quickly they left their cellphones behind.
After a quick gunfight the Police used a robot to pull the tarp back from the boat and Dzhakar slowly emerged.
During questioning, Dzhokhar admitted that he and his brother were motivated by extremist Islamist beliefs and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, that they were self-radicalized and unconnected to any outside terrorist groups, and that he was following his brother’s lead. He also said they had intended to travel to New York City to bomb Times Square. On April 8, 2015, he was convicted of 30 charges, including use of a weapon of mass destruction and malicious destruction of property resulting in death. Two months later, he was sentenced to death.
View the photo montage of the blast damage below.
Below is video analysis of the Boston Marathon bombing showing slow motion, zoomed footage of the explosion from multiple angles.