The FBI released photos and video showing two men suspected in the April 15 terrorist bombing in Boston and appealed for the public’s help in identifying them.
The two men, in baseball caps and carrying backpacks, became suspects after agents combed through thousands of images from the area where two improvised bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, FBI Special Agent in Charge Richard DesLauriers said.
“We know the public will play a critical role in identifying and locating these individuals,” DesLauriers said today at a briefing in Boston. “Somebody out there knows these individuals.”
The images are being distributed on the FBI’s website, www.fbi.gov. The video shows two young men walking separately down a sidewalk along Boylston Street paralleling the race path near the finish line. They also are shown individually in a sequence of still pictures.
One of the men was seen dropping a bag suspected of containing a bomb and was targeted “within the last day or so,” he said. The FBI subsequently linked the second man.
“We consider them to be armed and extremely dangerous,” DesLauriers said. “Do not take any action on your own. If you see these men, contact law enforcement.”
He said tips should be directed to a hotline, 1-800-CALLFBI.
The break in the case came three days after the bombing that killed three people and wounded scores in the highest-profile act of terror in the U.S. since the 2001 attacks on New York City and Washington.
The FBI’s decision to describe those in the images as “suspects” who are “armed and dangerous” means the bureau has “solid evidence” that they’re responsible for the attack, said Andrew Arena, who worked for the FBI for 24 years, most recently as the special agent in charge of the Detroit office.
Release of the images also indicates that 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.
Earlier in the day, President Barack Obama attended a memorial in Boston for the victims of the bombing. Addressing hundreds of citizens at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, Obama said the perpetrators will be caught.
“Yes, we will find you, and yes, you will face justice,” he promised.
The pictures come from several vantage points, including store security cameras on and across the street from the bomb site, according to federal law-enforcement officials.
The FBI’s release of the images generated a flurry of traffic at the agency’s website and on social media. On Twitter Inc.’s messaging service, mentions of “FBI” and “suspects” spiked to about 445,000 at 5:30 p.m. from about 6,000 at 3:30 p.m., according to Topsy, a social media analysis company.
Going public carries benefits and risks, and often is done only after investigators try unsuccessfully to identify suspects on their own, former law enforcement officials said.
“You’re likely to quickly get information about people you’re looking for, assuming the photos are clear enough,” said J. Patrick Rowan, an attorney with McGuireWoods LLP in Washington who served at the U.S. Justice Department for 18 years. He was the assistant attorney general for national security from 2008 to 2009. “The No. 1 downside: You’re also alerting them that the FBI is looking for them.”
Also, if the photos aren’t clear, they can tie up investigators with false tips, or tar people who are innocent, Rowan said.
Both bombs may have been made using pressure cookers packed with explosives and nails, pellets and other shrapnel to maim victims, investigators said.
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 bombers.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, testifying this morning before the House Homeland Security Committee, said the investigation is “proceeding apace.”
“This is not an NCIS episode,” she said. “Sometimes you have to take time to properly put the chain together to identify the perpetrators.”
Police and FBI agents interviewed witnesses in city hospitals, people closest to the blasts who might have important clues.
FBI agents yesterday visited Remy Lawler, 25, for the second time, said her father, Arthur Lawler, of Amesbury. They came to Faulkner Hospital, in Jamaica Plain, to ask for photos she took and inquire about what she saw, her father said.
“She was heavily medicated and she told them in no uncertain terms to ‘Get the hell out of here,’” he said, describing his daughter as traumatized and angry. “Their timing was very poor.”
Remy Lawler had been standing with a roommate and friend Jeff Bauman a few feet from where the bomb went off, her father said. Shortly before the explosion, she moved closer to the finish line to take better photographs.
She suffered a baseball-sized shrapnel wound while Bauman, the subject of one of the most widely distributed photographs of the event, lost both his legs.
“She feels guilty about a lot of this -- that she wasn’t with her friends,” who were just feet away, her father said.
“I hope they get the people responsible. People have said they should be hung in the public square right near the site.”
The city at the center of the nation’s 10th-biggest metropolitan area went about its business today armored by a new apparatus of security. At the Sheraton Boston Hotel, near the bombing site, conventioneers mingled with guards in camouflage carrying automatic weapons. Morning commuters waiting for the Silver Line bus in the South End watched a white truck from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives cruise through the neighborhood.