Mayhem erupted around Boston early today as police pursued suspects thought to be armed with automatic weapons and explosives, heightening tensions in a city reeling from this week’s terrorist bombings.
The violence broke out after the fatal shooting last night of a Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus officer. Police sped from that crime scene toward Watertown, about six miles from MIT, responding en masse to reports of a carjacking and the shooting of a second officer.
In Watertown, one suspect was ordered by police to strip naked and was taken into custody. Police had surrounded the man with their guns drawn, ordered him to the ground and shouted. “Drop your underwear!”
The Boston Globe reported early today, citing unnamed sources, that a bombing suspect had been detained. It wasn’t immediately clear how many suspects were in custody, with police radio reports indicating that one person had been apprehended, another taken to the hospital, and a third thought to still be at large.
Boston is still coming to grips with the April 15 bombing of the city’s annual marathon that killed three people and injured more than 170. The Federal Bureau of Investigation yesterday released images of two men it said were suspects in the attack and asked for public help in identifying them. The agency released two more images early today of the men.
It wasn’t immediately known whether there’s a link between the bombing and the violence overnight. “We are engaged with our partners trying to determine if there is a connection,” Martin Feely, an FBI spokesman, said in an e-mail today.
Andrew Kitzenberg, a Watertown resident, said he witnessed from his bedroom window a confrontation between two men in a black SUV and police.
“There were two shooters with handguns,” he told MSNBC. They also had “what seemed to be grenades” and “what looked to be a pressure cooker bomb,” referring to the type of explosive device that the marathon attackers are thought to have used.
As an explosion went off, one of the shooters ran toward officers, and “went down,” Kitzenberg said. The second shooter got in the SUV and “floored it” in the direction of the officers.
Police had issued warnings over their radio about “multiple explosive devices.” People in the area were told to stay off mobile phones to avoid setting off any potential bombs. At least one loud explosion was heard.
A transit police officer also was shot overnight and is in serious condition, according to David Procopio, a Massachusetts state police spokesman.
Watertown resident Larry Victor described the scene: “Tons and tons and tons of gunfire. Explosions. What a wild event right here in Watertown. I wasn’t about to walk out in the middle of a gun battle.”
Police streamed into the area from many local towns, as did law-enforcement officers from the FBI, transit authority and the National Guard. Multiple ambulances were standing by.
“Our daughter woke us up and said there were a lot of gunshots,” said one witness, Scott Price.
The family heard multiple gunshots, he said. “You could smell the gun powder.” Price’s wife, Anne, said they heard three explosions. “It was very frightening,” she said. “Our daughter was very scared.”
At Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, city and state police cruisers, their lights flashing, stood by. A state police officer shooed a reporter off the hospital grounds, declining to answer questions.
Shortly before 2 a.m. local time, a half-dozen Boston and state police, some carrying assault rifles, ran past a group of construction workers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, across the street from Beth Israel. They were yelling “active shooter, active shooter” and urging the workers to get inside, said Michael Hartley, one of the workers. The police ran toward Children’s Hospital, Hartley said.
The MIT officer who was shot last night was responding to reports of a disturbance on campus, according to a statement from Middlesex Acting District Attorney Michael Pelgro. The officer, who wasn’t identified, was found with multiple gunshot wounds and taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead, Pelgro said.
Gunshots were heard on the campus at about 10:48 p.m. local time last night near the Ray and Maria Stata Center, and people have been asked to stay clear of the area, according to a statement posted on the university’s website. MIT later issued an all-clear.
Officers from state and local law enforcement units were on the campus shooting scene, along with some personnel wearing FBI jackets. Two police dogs were seen sniffing around a building marked the McGovern Institute for Brain Research.
About 20 police vehicles with lights flashing were seen along Vassar Street at MIT, which was cordoned off with yellow crime-scene tape. A police boat with lights flashing was patrolling the nearby Charles River, and a helicopter hovered over the campus.
The Cambridge Police Department issued a message of condolences through a posting on the Twitter social network.
“Our thoughts & prayers are with the officer’s family & our brothers & sisters at the #MIT Police,” the Cambridge police said.
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