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Boston and the end of the chase


A climactic ending to a chaotic week

I went to bed Thursday night feeling that the so-called “suspects” were as good as caught. Their images had been captured by numerous video cameras hanging off the sides of buildings, and there existed at least one camera image captured by a finished-runner who, ironically, came from Jacksonville, Florida, where we spend winters.

“Suspects?” “Alleged killers?” Give me a break, as my wife Rose often says. The two shown in videos definitely did it, planted the bombs, even if their parents over in Russia, understandably, were not yet willing to admit their guilt. The runner from Jacksonville accidentally had captured the younger of the two killers, the one with the white cap, immediately after the explosion with the bomb-containing pack seen in earlier images no longer on his back.

The images were blurry, and the FBI probably was sitting on others, but anyone who knew the killers certainly should have been able to ID them, if only from their clothes: the black cap with “B” on it for one; the white cap worn backwards for the other. It was only a matter of time, it seemed, before the pair who invaded the security of our sport would be identified and brought to justice.

Certainly, the killers realized that too. Several of the so-called Intelligence experts interviewed on the cable TV channels that were following the story 24/7 suggested that the killers arrogantly knew video camera would capture their images. I never thought so. I felt they were naïve, ignorant, unaware more than arrogant and, yes, they were that too. They already were assembling more bombs, unquestionably planning other atrocities, assuming that they would not get caught. But as I posted to my Facebook pages, the brothers seemed to have a Plan A (kill), but no Plan B (escape).

I was reminded of two other killers from an earlier era. I wrote about college students Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb in my book, The Crime of the Century. In 1924, the pair randomly selected a 14-year-old boy walking down the street in the usually peaceful Chicago neighborhood, Kenwood, where President Obama now has a home. They kidnapped and killed the boy without compassion, figuring they were too smart to get caught.

They were wrong.

So were the Boston bombers wrong. They panicked! And when I turned on TV early Friday morning, I learned that the first killer had been killed himself in a nighttime shootout with Police. After a car chase, the other killer escaped on foot, even though wounded. Before that shootout, the killers claimed a fourth victim: an MIT security guard. By being in the wrong place at the wrong time, his name was added to the names of three who died in the bombing beside our cherished marathon course.

The remainder of Friday can be described as more than amazing: chaotic, surreal, resembling what I described on Facebook as “a bad Tom Cruise movie.” (One of my Facebook friends commented, correctly, that the remark was redundant.)

Incredibly, the Police shut down the entire city of Boston for a day while they searched for the remaining killer. There was a lot of bad, or maybe I should more charitably say “incorrect,” reporting as various TV commentators tried to fill the air with rumors and theories. At first, they announced that the pair attempted to rob a 7/11 Store. That proved incorrect. There was a green, or maybe grey, Honda that might be in Connecticut, and we even had the license plate number! The same grasping for straws to offer to a curious public was exactly like the media frenzy in the Leopold and Loeb case. Like a vacuum cleaner that sucks up anything in its path, commentators grabbed anybody willing to stand in front of a microphone and offer an opinion. That included an Uncle living in Maryland, who denounced the other branch of his family and his nephews. That included one high school friend of the killer, interviewed by one channel first on the telephone then invited to come to downtown Boston to appear live. The friend had little more to say other than the killer was like any teenager. (Thanks a lot.) I kept waiting for the reporter to ask the obvious question, “When you saw the killer’s image on TV, why did you and your friends not immediately call the FBI?” A college friend apparently did call, as certainly did many others.

For most of the day, the Police combed Watertown, searching houses, garages and sheds without luck. The Governor and Mayor finally and reluctantly told Bostonians to resume their regular lives--but keep your heads down.

And that was when the killer was caught. A resident of Watertown came out of his house for the first time, looked in the driveway where his boat was parked and spotted blood on a covering tarpaulin. He lifted the tarpaulin to look inside and saw the bloody killer, apparently shot in the earlier confrontation with Police. Luckily, the homeowner backed away before he was added to the list of victims. He dialed 9-1-1. The sound of one more firefight soon would fill the air.

Rose and I learned all this while listening to PBS during the 20 minutes it takes us to drive from our home in Long Beach, Indiana to Three Oaks, across the border in Michigan. This was around 6:00 PM, Central Time. While having dinner, I would check Google News on my iPhone now and then for any developments in the apparent stand-off between Killer and Police. We walked from the restaurant to the Vickers Theatre to see a German film, Barbara. Our favorite seats are at a table in a balcony overhanging the hundred or so seats below. A few minutes before the obligatory shut-down of cell phones, I made one final check of the news and saw a headline saying that the killer was in police custody. I went downstairs to offer that information to co-owner Bill Lundberg, who usually offers a brief introduction before each film. (The Vickers is like a family theater.) There were several runners in the audience, whom I had talked to briefly while purchasing my ticket. They would want to know. So, I figured, would everybody, even if they had not followed developments as closely as had Rose and I. Bill briefly informed the audience that the second “suspect” was now in police custody. I don’t remember much cheering similar to that in the streets of Watertown.

After the movie we went home and checked TV before going to bed, but there was not more for the experts and interviewers to say. We went to sleep planning to catch up in the morning. That was my Friday. It was the end of a chaotic week for those of us who love and respect the Boston Marathon and the runners and spectators who focus their attention each Patriot’s Day on the 26 miles 385 yards between Hopkinton and Boylston Street in Back Bay Boston. Our world may or may not ever be the same. ________________________________________________________

Hal Higdon would like to hear the stories of those who ran this year’s Boston Marathon, those who finished their race before the bombing and those who were still out on the course when told by Police to stop. Post your stories at Hal Higdon’s Marathon on Facebook, or contact him at RoadrunnerPress@comcast.net.