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Hunt For The Boston Bombers: How The Real Story Unfolded

Relive the tragic tale.
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Released in UK cinemas on February 23, Patriots Day is a powerful, procedural account of the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing from Lone Survivor director Peter Berg and, headlining a commanding ensemble cast, Boston local Mark Wahlberg.

Drawn from real-life accounts including those of survivors, first responders, government officials and the law enforcement investigative team who tracked the bombers down in record time, the film details one of the most sophisticated and well-coordinated manhunts in history while simultaneously paying tribute to a community’s courage and camaraderie.

FBI special agent Richard DesLauriers, who played a key role in the manhunt and is portrayed in the film by Kevin Bacon, says he’s impressed with the film’s level of accuracy.

“They solicited our input on the script when it was being put together. I had a chance to review it and recommend changes. Because they did such a good job vetting that with us, I think that’s what contributed to the film being very, very authentic,” he enthused.


On Patriots’ Day, April 15, 2013, in Boston, Massachusetts, a pair of homemade pressure cooker bombs exploded, 12 seconds and a few hundred yards apart, near the finish line of the 177 annual Boston Marathon. Three people were killed and approximately 264 more suffered injuries, at least 14 of whom required amputations.

Rescue workers and medical personnel, already on hand for the marathon, gave initial aid as additional police, fire and medical units were quickly despatched. Police initially closed a 15-block area around the blast site. The airspace over Boston was restricted. Police commissioner Edward F. Davis recommended that people stay off the streets. For the next four days, Boston was a virtual ghost town, with universities, schools, many businesses and other facilities closed for the duration of the manhunt.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation led the operation, assisted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Counterterrorism Center and the Drug Enforcement Administration. In all, thousands of law enforcement personnel contributed to the manhunt.

Examining many hours of video footage and hundreds of thousands of photos, a mountain of material supplemented by more than 12,000 tips from witnesses throughout the city, officers identified the terrorists as Chechen-American brothers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Motivated by extremist Islamist beliefs, by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and, some suspected, by elder brother Tamerlan’s failure to fully integrate into American society, the Tsarnaevs were inspired by, but not affiliated with, al-Qaeda.


The attack came as a complete surprise because the brothers were a self-contained cell of two. Representative Peter King, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, revealed at the time, “I received two top secret briefings last week on the current threat levels in the United States, and there was no evidence of this at all.”

Shortly after the brothers’ pictures were released to the public, on April 18, the Tsarnaevs tried but failed to snatch the gun of MIT campus cop Sean A. Collier, 27, fatally shooting him in the attempt.

The pair then carjacked a Mercedes-Benz M-Class SUV in the Allston-Brighton neighbourhood of Boston. Tamerlan informed the driver of the car, Chinese national Dun Meng, that they were responsible for the Boston bombing and had just killed a police officer.

Spontaneously deciding to drive to New York to bomb Times Square, the brothers forced Meng to withdraw $800 cash for them. Escaping during a brief gas station stop, Meng alerted the police, informing them he’d left his mobile phone in the car with the Tsarnaevs, allowing the authorities to track the brothers.

Soon after midnight, on April 19, in nearby Watertown, the Tsarnaevs engaged in a fierce firefight with police. Approximately 200 to 300 rounds of ammunition were fired and at least one additional bomb and several crude grenades thrown. In all, 16 police officers were injured during the battle. Tamerlan, 26, was shot several times and, after running out of ammunition, tackled and apprehended by police officers.

Dzhokhar, 19, fled the scene in the stolen SUV, accidentally running over his brother, dragging him down the street for a short distance before escaping. Tamerlan, 26, died soon after in a nearby hospital. Dzhokhar was shot and captured later that same day following an intense manhunt involving thousands of police officers.

According to The Los Angeles Times, a police officer noted that Dzhokhar “did not seem as bothered about America’s role in the Muslim world” as his brother Tamerlan. It was him, insisted Dzhokhar, who had been the driving force behind the bombing. Regardless, on June 24, 2015, after apologizing to the victims, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was sentenced to death and is currently awaiting execution.

Following the events of April 15 to 19, a phrase was coined to express and celebrate the resilience, bravery and solidarity of everyone touched, but not beaten by, the bombers: Boston Strong.


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