After more than 18 hours of gunfights and door-to-door searches, the Boston Police Department and its partners in the greater metropolitan area were prepared for anything when they finally caught up with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. According to the Washington Post and the Associated Press, however, the same couldn’t be said for Tsarnaev. Despite initial reports of a firefight and possibly a suicide attempt, police now acknowledge that the younger terrorist was unarmed when they finally discovered him hiding in a boat in Watertown:
Although police feared he was heavily armed, the suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing had no firearms when he came under a barrage of police gunfire that struck the boat where he was hiding, according to multiple federal law enforcement officials.
Authorities said they were desperate to capture Dzhokhar Tsarnaev so he could be questioned. The FBI, however, declined to discuss what prompted the gunfire.
Other law enforcement officials said the shooting may have been prompted by the chaos of the moment and some action that led the officers to believe Tsarnaev had fired a weapon or was about to detonate explosives.
What may have caused the gunfire from the police? Well, it’s really not difficult to figure that out:
“They probably didn’t know whether he had a gun,” said one law enforcement official, who like others interviewed for this article spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation. “Hours earlier, he and his brother had killed a police officer, shot another officer and thrown explosives out of their cars as the police were chasing them. They couldn’t assume that he did not have a gun and more explosives.”
I’m reminded of a scene from Unforgiven, where Clint Eastwood shoots the saloon owner after seeing Morgan Freeman’s body on display outside of it. When Gene Hackman says, “You just shot an unarmed man!”, Eastwood replies, “He should’ve armed himself if he was going to decorate his saloon with my friend.” More to the point, though, one of their colleagues was already not going to see his family ever again, and more than a dozen or so other colleagues were wounded because of Tsarnaev, and they didn’t want to take a risk that they’d be next. If they were a little tense and quick on the trigger, it’s an issue that they will need to take up later, but still understandable.
At any rate, Tsarnaev survived and is expected to recover. He’s not talking much any more, though, after having been given his Miranda warning:
The surviving suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings acknowledged to the FBI his role in the attacks but did so before he was advised of his constitutional right to keep quiet and seek a lawyer, U.S. officials said Wednesday.
Once Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was read his rights on Monday, he immediately stopped talking, according to four officials of both political parties who were briefed on the interrogation but insisted on anonymity because the briefing was private.
After roughly 16 hours of questioning, investigators were surprised when a magistrate judge and a representative from the U.S. Attorney’s office entered the hospital room and read Tsarnaev his rights, the four officials and one law enforcement official said. Investigators had planned to keep questioning him.
If they had planned to keep questioning him, why bring in the judge and file the charges? They could have waited another day or so to arraign Tsarnaev, especially since this took place over a weekend. I’m not sure any judge — particularly at the federal level — would skip advising a defendant of his rights in a case involving a criminal charge.
Still, it doesn’t make much difference in the criminal case anyway. Dzhokhar admitted his involvement in the bombing case to their kidnap victim, murdered a police officer, and engaged in a shootout that resulted in the death of his co-conspirator, which makes him eligible for a murder charge on that point, too. He’s not going anywhere for a very long time whether he talks or not. The damage comes in the loss of intelligence on whether larger connections in the case exist, but there is some question as to whether Dzhokhar would have known of them even if they exist.