As Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev fought police with guns and homemade bombs in the early hours of April 19, Andrew Kitzenberg peeked from his third-floor bedroom window and snapped pictures of the battle with his iPhone.
As the firefight subsided, one of the brothers lay dead on his suburban street and Kitzenberg did what witnesses to dramatic events now do with increasing frequency.
“I tweeted the photos immediately,” he said in an interview yesterday on the front porch of his home in Watertown, Massachusetts, referring to using the Twitter.com website, where his “followers” have surged almost 600-fold. “I had a lot of insightful information and wanted to share it.”
Kitzenberg, a 2010 graduate of Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts, said he realized who the shooters were when they pulled what appeared to be a kitchen pot out of a car and lit a connecting fuse. The Boston Marathon bombers used explosive- packed pressure cookers to kill three and injure more than 260 people near the race finish line April 15.
“I saw the sparks from the fuse and that’s when I hit the ground,” Kitzenberg said.
A moment later he heard and felt a tremendous explosion. A black smudge on the asphalt still marks the spot where the pressure cooker blew up on Laurel Street, where he lives.
Watertown Police Captain Raymond Dupuis said more than 200 rounds were fired in the showdown. The Tsarnaevs also threw at least two pipe bombs and two pressure-cooker bombs, only one of which exploded during the firefight, he said.
Following the blast, Kitzenberg said he watched one of the shooters begin walking toward the police line, firing a handgun. The shooter, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, eventually ran out of bullets, according to Dupuis. He was then tackled by officers.
“After he went down the other shooter turned the SUV around and just accelerated toward the Watertown police vehicles,” Kitzenberg said.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, drove straight at the officers, apparently running over his brother, Dupuis said. Kitzenberg said the younger man could have fled by heading in the opposite direction, which appeared unguarded by police.
At around 2 a.m. that day, Kitzenberg posted this on Twitter: “Crashed cop car with all windows shot out in our driveway.”
After Dzhokhar Tsarnaev rammed through the police line, he disappeared for more than 16 hours. He was eventually discovered hiding in a covered boat in a nearby backyard and arrested.
The younger Tsarnaev was charged April 22 by federal prosecutors with using a weapon of mass destruction that resulted in death. He may face the death penalty if convicted.
Kitzenberg said after the melee, he discovered that a bullet had pierced a second-floor wall of his house. It left a hole in a calendar and struck the back of a desk chair.
“My roommates and I are all very grateful that we made it through such a terrifying event unharmed,” he said on his blog.
Kitzenberg’s online popularity has since soared. He now has more than 29,000 Twitter “followers,” which he said compares with 50 the night the Tsarnaev brothers came to Laurel Street.
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