BOSTON — A wounded 19-year-old man was charged by the U.S. government Monday with the bombing of the Boston Marathon, which killed three people, injured more than 170 and set off a four-day manhunt across the metropolitan area while triggering an international investigation.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is charged with using and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction resulting in death, according to a filing in Boston federal court. He’s also charged with malicious destruction of property by means of an explosive device resulting in death.
If convicted, Tsarnaev faces possible execution in the federal death chamber in Terre Haute, Indiana, the same place Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh was put to death. Prosecutors may later state whether they intend to seek capital punishment.
“We will hold those who are responsible for these heinous acts accountable to the fullest extent of the law,” U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Monday in a statement.
Tsarnaev, whose brother and alleged accomplice died during a shootout with police, had his initial court appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Marianne Bowler Monday in his hospital room, where he’s being treated for injuries sustained trying to elude capture.
“Alert and able to respond to the charges,” he agreed to voluntary detention, and a probable-cause hearing was set for May 30, according to the case docket. He was handed over from FBI custody to the U.S. Marshals, and declined to answer bail questions.
Assistant Federal Defender William Fick represented Tsarnaev during Monday’s proceeding. Federal Public Defender Miriam Conrad in Boston will be his lead counsel in the case, which is being prosecuted by Boston U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz. Conrad declined to comment on the charges.
The April 15 marathon was shattered when two powerful bombs exploded about 10 seconds apart on a commercial stretch of Boylston Street. The blasts sent shrapnel ripping through spectators near the finish line. An 8-year-old boy, a 29-year- old woman and a Chinese graduate student at Boston University were killed. Many of the injured lost limbs.
Prosecutors cited surveillance video along the marathon route in its criminal complaint as giving them probable cause for the charges. In the complaint sworn out Sunday, FBI Agent Daniel Genck said the video showed Tsarnaev and his brother 11 minutes before the first explosion, carrying large knapsacks as they walked near the marathon route. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev could be seen stopping in front of a restaurant, putting his bag down and fiddling with his phone, according to the complaint.
As the crowd reacted to the first explosion down the street, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev could be seen on video walking “calmly but rapidly” in the other direction, leaving his bag behind, according to the complaint. A second explosion occurred about 10 seconds later in the spot where Tsarnaev had left his knapsack, Genck said.
Investigators combed a mile-wide crime scene and scrutinized evidence from scores of video recordings and photographs to identify the suspect and his elder brother.
On April 18, the FBI released pictures of the two men taken near the scene of the blasts. They showed one suspect wearing a black hat, and the other a white hat.
That night, a motorist was carjacked at gunpoint in Cambridge, across the Charles River from Boston. The carjacker allegedly said: “Did you hear about the Boston explosion?” and “I did that,” according to the complaint.
The carjacker picked up a second man and the two spoke in a foreign language as they drove, the victim said, according to the complaint. They allegedly demanded cash and an ATM card from the victim. Later, when they stopped at a convenience store, the victim escaped, according to the complaint.
Security camera footage from an automated teller machine and the convenience store showed that the carjackers were also the men spotted at the marathon, according to the complaint. The people in those pictures resembled the Tsarnaev brothers, Genck said, citing motor vehicle records.
That same night, police converged on Boston’s northern suburbs following the killing of a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer.
When police caught up with the stolen car in Watertown, the occupants threw improvised bombs out the windows and a running gunfight ensued, Genck said. Tamerlan Tsarnaev was fatally wounded during the shootout, according to the complaint.
Investigators at the marathon bombing site had found that the explosives may have been contained in ordinary metal pressure cookers packed with shrapnel to maximize casualties, techniques easily found on the Internet, and popular with foreign terrorist groups including al-Qaida.
The explosives thrown in the car chase and found in the stolen car after it was abandoned were similar to those used at the marathon, according to Genck. At least one of the bombs used in the shootout may have been contained in the same brand of pressure cooker, he said.
With his brother dead, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev managed to escape. As police searched house to house, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick asked residents of Boston and several surrounding suburbs to stay inside with their doors locked. Public transit was shut down.
The chase came to an end April 19 when Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was found hiding in a boat stowed in the back yard of a Watertown home. The homeowner noticed blood on the boat, lifted up the covering and “saw a man covered in blood,” then immediately called police, according to Boston Police Department Commissioner Ed Davis.
During the ensuing standoff, officials operated with caution out of concern that the suspect was wearing an explosive vest or had an improvised explosive device with him, said a federal official, asking not to be identified due to the continuing investigation.
Police sent at least one helicopter with a thermal-imaging camera to confirm he was moving underneath the cover, Davis said.
The dead brother had explosives strapped to his body when killed, according to two federal law enforcement officials. That increased concerns about the type of weaponry the younger Tsarnaev might be carrying, one official said.
Genck, in the criminal complaint, said Tsarnaev was carrying school ID from the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth when he was caught. A search of his dormitory turned up a “large pyrotechnic” as well as a jacket and hat matching the ones seen on the marathon surveillance video, the FBI agent said.
The bombing initially triggered suspicions of domestic terrorism, coming on the day income taxes filings are due and near the anniversaries of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and 1993 assault on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas. U.S. investigators are now focusing outward after it was revealed the brothers were immigrants of Chechen descent.
“We will determine what happened,” President Barack Obama said April 19, after Tsarnaev’s capture. “The wounded — some of whom now have to learn how to stand, walk and live again — deserve answers.”
Jay Carney, a White House spokesman, said the suspect won’t be treated as an enemy combatant. No group or organization has claimed responsibility, and U.S. lawmakers and intelligence officials said there were no indications of a plot beforehand.
The blasts near Boston’s Copley Square occurred as thousands of runners were finishing the race. Among the dead was an 8-year-old from the Dorchester neighborhood, Martin Richard. The family of Krystle Campbell of Medford, Mass., identified the 29-year-old as another person who died in the blast. The third person, Lu Lingzi, was a graduate student at Boston University, the school said.
Of the injured, many were hospitalized with lower-extremity wounds from bombs laden with pellets and nail-like shrapnel. At least 13 people underwent amputations, hospital officials said.
Following his capture, Tsarnaev was hospitalized at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center with gunshot wounds suffered as he battled police, authorities said. According to the medical center, Tsarnaev remains in serious condition, the FBI said.
At the Obama administration’s direction, police weren’t reading Tsarnaev the Miranda warning that gives suspects a chance to consult a lawyer before answering questions, according to a Justice Department official.
The administration invoked a public-safety exception that allows limited questioning. Statements from those interviews later can be entered into evidence, said the official, who asked not to be identified because the move wasn’t announced.
The exception, which stems from a 1984 Supreme Court case, would allow interrogators to push Tsarnaev on any training he received, associates or other potential plots before filing charges, the official said.
Authorities believe the two bombing suspects were acting alone and haven’t found connections to any groups or other suspects, said a person briefed on the investigation who asked not to be identified because it is a continuing probe.
The brothers are ethnic Chechens, said their uncle, Ruslan Tsarni, who lives in Gaithersburg, Md. Tamerlan Tsarnaev was an amateur boxer and a Muslim who trained at a gym in the Allston section of Brighton and told friends, “I’m very religious,” according to an account by Johannes Hirn, a freelance photographer who profiled him.
Two years ago, the FBI interviewed the older brother “based on information that he was a follower of radical Islam” and preparing to join underground groups in that country, according to an agency statement. The interview and reviews of U.S. databases turned up no evidence of terror activity, the FBI said.
The Tsarnaev brothers and their two sisters moved to the Dagestan region of Russia in October 2001 from the central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan as refugees, and left for the U.S in March 2002, said Emirmagomed Davudov, director of Gimnasium Number 1 in Dagestan, where Tamerlan went to the seventh grade and Dzhokhar to first grade.
The parents first received asylum and then filed for the children, who were given “derivative asylum status” and didn’t come through the refugee admissions program, though the legal standard is essentially the same, said a State Department official who asked not to be identified to discuss the case.