An expansive investigation narrowed into a focused manhunt yesterday as the FBI released photos and video of two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings and appealed for the public’s help in their capture.
Early this morning, the agency released additional photos that showed the faces of the suspects. Also late last night and into this morning, police from throughout the Boston area pursued suspects thought to be armed with automatic weapons and explosives, with at least one suspect taken into custody. It wasn’t immediately known whether case was related to the April 15 terrorist bombings at the marathon that killed three people and injured more than 170 others.
The violence broke out after the fatal shooting last night of a Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus officer.
The video released yesterday by the FBI, taken near the finish line where two improvised bombs exploded on April 15, shows the men -- one in a white cap and the other in a black cap -- keeping a careful distance from each other as they walk down a Boston street packed with a celebratory crowd.
“Though it may be difficult, the nation is counting on those with information to come forward and provide it to us,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Richard DesLauriers said yesterday at a briefing in Boston. “Identifying and locating those responsible is now our highest priority.”
The decision to distribute the photos and video came after an intense internal debate within the Federal Bureau of Investigation, according to law-enforcement officials who asked for anonymity to discuss the case. Agents weighed whether releasing the images might impede the inquiry by tipping off the suspects and flooding the agency with dead-end tips.
The authorities finally concluded the release would shake free fresh leads in an investigation involving more than 1,000 law-enforcement personnel.
The FBI narrowed its search with the help of witnesses. Minutes before the bombs blew up, Jeff Bauman looked into the face of one of the suspects, his brother Chris Bauman told Bloomberg News. Two and half minutes after the man dropped a bag at his feet, the bag exploded, tearing Jeff Bauman’s legs apart.
“He woke up under so much drugs, asked for a paper and pen and wrote, ‘bag, saw the guy, looked right at me,’” Chris Bauman said yesterday in an interview. While still in intensive care, Jeff Bauman gave the FBI a description of the man he saw, his brother said.
Adding to Boston’s troubles, a police officer was fatally shot late last night at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, sparking a manhunt on the campus and surrounding areas. Officers from state and local law enforcement units were on the shooting scene early today, along with some personnel wearing FBI jackets.
Shortly after the shooting, police sped from that crime scene toward Watertown, about six miles from MIT, responding en masse to reports of a carjacking and the possible shooting of a second officer, according to law-enforcement radio transmissions. Warnings were issued by police 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.
By releasing the images from the bombings, the FBI is counting on other witnesses to follow Bauman’s lead by sharing recollections that might produce another breakthrough.
The photos and a 30-second video of the suspects were posted on the FBI website, www.fbi.gov. DesLauriers said tips should be directed to a hotline, 1-800-CALLFBI.
The pictures, which show the men individually, come from several vantage points, including store security cameras on and across the street from the bomb site.
The man wearing the white hat was seen setting down a backpack at the site of the second of the two bomb blasts, DesLauriers said. Both are considered armed and dangerous, he said, warning people not to approach them.
“Do not take any action on your own. If you see these men, contact law enforcement,” DesLauriers said.
The release of images by law enforcement to enlist the public’s help is increasingly common as mobile-phone cameras and security cameras have proliferated, said Andrew Arena, who worked for the FBI for 24 years, most recently as the special agent in charge of the Detroit office.
“Law enforcement does it a lot more regularly now,” he said.
Release of the images also indicates the FBI wasn’t able to identify the suspects using other investigative methods, said Arena, who left the bureau last year to serve as the executive director of the Detroit Crime Commission.
The resolution of the photos doesn’t look high enough to do advanced analytics, such as facial matching, said Raul Fernandez, chairman of Reston, Virginia-based ObjectVideo Inc., which develops specialized software for cameras to process images. The images are also problematic because the camera used to capture them was facing at a downward angle, preventing a head-on shot, he said.
“The data out is only as good as the data in,” Fernandez said.
Police swept the finish-line area for explosives the morning of the race and about an hour before elite runners began crossing at about noon, said Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis. That leaves about a four-hour window before the two explosions at 2:50 p.m. the claimed the three lives and injured the others, some critically.
Authorities searching the site recovered bomb components, including a piece of circuit board and the lid of a pressure cooker blown onto a rooftop, that may provide critical clues to tracking down the attackers. Both bombs may have been made using pressure cookers packed with explosives and nails, pellets and other shrapnel to maim victims, investigators said.
The investigation continued yesterday as President Barack Obama flew to Boston with first lady Michelle Obama to attend a memorial for the victims of the bombing. Addressing hundreds of citizens at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, Obama spoke in personal terms about Boston, seeking to console the mourning city as he vowed to capture the perpetrators.
“Yes, we will find you, and yes, you will face justice,” he promised.