Boston’s drama fast and furious

Law enforcement, public a powerful team

By The Mercury

As fast-moving stories go, the Boston Marathon bombing-manhunt-apprehension has been remarkable.

It was just last Monday afternoon — one week ago — that two explosions killed three individuals and wounded scores of others, some critically, near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Since then, an MIT campus police officer was killed and another officer wounded, and one suspect, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was killed.

Also, all of Boston was shut down Friday while thousands of federal, state and local officials searched for his brother. That search culminated in the apprehension of the second suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who had been hiding, seriously wounded, in a boat in a residential back yard in Watertown. He’s now recovering in a Boston hospital and no doubt wondering what the rest of his life will be like.

Rather than wonder if the older suspect, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, slipped through the FBI’s fingers a couple of years ago when he was questioned in part at the request of Russian authorities, it won’t hurt now to celebrate the combination of outstanding police work, an active public, video technology and luck in apprehending those responsible for this act of terror.

Digital technology was invaluable, as was public involvement in sharing video footage that complemented film from business and street cameras in identifying the suspects shortly after their images were publicized.

Without that, the Tsarnaev brothers would still be free and perhaps plotting another bombing.

Instead, before Tamerlan was killed and Dzhokhar arrested, they killed an MIT police officer as he sat in his cruiser and later wounded another officer in a gunfight with police before the younger Tsarnaev ran over his other brother in a stolen car and fled.

The hunt for Dzhokhar made for gripping television drama as police, focusing on the Boston suburb of Watertown, asked Bostonians to stay in their homes for their own safety. To their credit, they cooperated beautifully, and rejoiced with understandable relief when word came Friday night that police had apprehended Dzhokhar.

Countless questions remain, of course, starting with whether the brothers acted alone or were part of a larger cell, and what they might know of future attacks. No doubt the FBI is revisiting its 2011 conversation with the older brother, and the merits of drones and public camera systems such as the one in London are sure to be debated.

It is unfair and unrealistic to expect our intelligence and law enforcement communities to prevent every act of terror. While grieving for those who died, we ought to be relieved the death toll wasn’t higher.

But after the shock of last Monday’s attack, we would be remiss in not also crediting the authorities and the public for responding superbly to the crisis.

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