The Ongoing Tsarnaev Investigation

There have been a number of interesting developments in the Boston Marathon bombing investigation. This post will mostly serve to collect them and comment on what they say.

The taxi cab full of pressure cookers

First, there’s a nagging question I’ve got. Anonymous leaks to the press have claimed that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev told the FBI he and his brother assembled the pressure cooker bombs in Tamerlan’s Cambridge apartment (which is one of the reasons authorities distrust Katherine Russell Tsarnaeva, leading her to hire Johsua Dratel to represent her).

But if it’s true the brothers assembled the bombs in the apartment, then what was this cab ride all about?

Jim Duggan, 51, has been haunted since his close encounter with brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, thinking maybe he could have unwittingly thwarted the killer plot if he had just driven away.

He told the Daily News on Thursday that the brothers flagged him down April 14 outside a rapid-transit station in the Boston suburb of Malden.

“I tried to put their backpacks into the trunk, but they wouldn’t let me touch them,” Duggan said.

He drove the men to Cambridge, letting them out near Kendall Square — close to where they lived.

Duggan said the brothers gave him a $2 tip on a $38 fare. As he started to drive away, the the older brother, Tamerlan, 26, began pounding on his car and yelling at him to get his attention.

The taxi driver said he immediately stopped and popped the trunk. Before the brothers could stop him, he removed one of the backpacks, which he now suspects held a homemade pressure-cooker bomb used in the attack.

“I said to them, ‘That’s the most packed backpack I ever picked up,’” said Duggan, guessing the bag weighed about 20 pounds.

I’m especially interested in this given Dzhokhar’s reported claim that they were going to hit the July 4th celebration, but finished the bombs early and therefore decided to target the Marathon instead. What if they had picked up the bombs at some location on the commuter rail?

The pizza and pot murders

In 2011, a friend of Tamerlan’s and two others were killed in a bizarre and brutal killing in Waltham. At the time, people thought Tamerlan’s behavior was weird (for example, he didn’t go the funeral, which Tamerlan’s ultra conservative views might have prohibited). In the wake of the Boston attack, though, authorities now claim not just Tamerlan, but also Dzhokhar, might be tied to the killing.

In the wake of the Marathon bombings, Middlesex County began to probe a link between the elder Tsarnaev and Brendan Mess, one of the three men killed in the gruesome slaying on Sept. 11, 2011. Officials said Mess and two men were found in a Waltham residence with their throats slit and their bodies covered with marijuana. Tamerlan and Mess were once roommates and did boxing and martial arts training together.

Now law enforcement officials tell ABC News that some crime scene forensic evidence provided a match to the two Tsarnaev brothers. The officials also said records of cell phones used by the Tsarnaevs appears to put them in the area of the murders on that date. Several officials confirmed the new findings but declined to be identified because they are not authorized to comment on the ongoing investigation.

[snip]

Then, Gerry’s Italian Kitchen became a focal point again on April 24, nine days after the Marathon bombing, after investigators removed a Planet Aid charity donation bin from its parking lot. A driver had discovered discarded fireworks inside and law enforcement sources told ABC News the gunpowder had been removed from the cartridges.

Elsewhere, I’ve seen it claimed that Tamerlan worked for Gerry’s Italian Kitchen at the time.

I’m really intrigued by this possibility — particularly since it looks like a mob killing more than an Islamic extremist one. But I also think it’s possible that the brothers’ DNA was at the scene because they, as friends, had been there. And what do authorities mean when they say their phones “put them in the area”? Is Cambridge the area, or just the Waltham neighborhood? Finally, while authorities might be really pushed to implicate Dzhokhar as well as Tamerlan, the piece notes that up to now they’ve believed there was just one killer.

They’ve got a real incentive to implicate Dzhokhar, who is around to be tried, unlike Tamerlan. So it’s worth being skeptical about his implication, at least.

Wearing makeup to your militia debut

There are a number of interesting details about what FSB is saying about Tamerlan’s trip to Russia (such as in this article; also note, as far as I can tell, FSB is baby-sitting the FBI agents working this case, so it’s important to remember much of this is being seen through their eyes).

But I’m particularly interested in this description of Tamerlan showing up in what I’ll call jihad disguise, which made actual Salafists worried he would attract attention.

Mr. Tsarnaev, who a year later allegedly planted the Boston Marathon bombs with his brother Dzhokhar and died after a shootout with police, got a cool reception from some of the Islamists he hoped to bond with. He greased his hair with olive oil and wore dark eye makeup, apparently in an effort to affect contemporary jihadist fashion, according to Mohamad Magomedov, who struck up a friendship with him at the mosque. That look isn’t popular in more-traditional Dagestan.

While Mr. Tsarnaev did find a circle of friends, some congregants at the Salafist mosque dismissed him as strange. Others said they feared his brashness would attract even more attention to them from Russian authorities.

“There are some people who take things too far,” said one congregant. “Everyone is being watched.”

[snip]

Tsarnaev’s father, Anzor, said the style issues nearly boiled over into a fist fight after some congregants accused Tamerlan of playing dress-up.

It’s not implausible that Tamerlan was over-dressing. He did the same while he was boxing, for example, with his leather pants and scarf. Though he had largely stopped dressing flamboyantly as he got more religious.

But it is worth noting he didn’t exactly come in with the operational security an aspirational jihadist would have.

Nevertheless, he reportedly (again, this is all coming through FSB as far as we know) managed to connect with someone on the run from the FSB.

In Makhachkala, Mr. Tsarnaev met several times with Makhmud Nidal, a member of a rebel group that operated in the area, an official close to the situation said. Mr. Nidal was on the run from Russian police, but Mr. Tsarnaev managed to meet with him secretly at an apartment in the Separatorny neighborhood of Makhachkala, said an official who saw the security-service dossier on Mr. Nidal.

In Makhachkala, Mr. Tsarnaev met several times with Makhmud Nidal, a member of a rebel group that operated in the area, an official close to the situation said. Mr. Nidal was on the run from Russian police, but Mr. Tsarnaev managed to meet with him secretly at an apartment in the Separatorny neighborhood of Makhachkala, said an official who saw the security-service dossier on Mr. Nidal.

Nevertheless, in spite of alternating claims (this WSJ article debunks earlier ones) that Tamerlan had ties with two people who would be killed the following year (Makhmud Nidal, killed in May 2012 and William Plotnikov, killed in July 2012, though WSJ has his father reporting no ties with Tamerlan), and yet Russia didn’t decide to arrest this guy they were purportedly following closely.

Though WSJ also reports Tamerlan skipped town, without the passport he had come for, shortly after Plotnikov was killed.

Tsarnaev’s visit to Dagestan ended abruptly last summer. Just two days after the raid that killed Mr. Plotnikov, he departed Russia, leaving behind a new Russian passport; acquiring the passport was one reason he had made the trip, his parents said.

It’s all very … showy.

The not-a-drone surveillance in Quincy

Finally, there’s this: for the past two weeks or so (that is, starting 10 days after the Boston attack), a low-flying plane has been flying constantly over Quincy, MA. Residents have asked the FAA what it’s about. But the Agency, which claims to know what it’s about, won’t tell them.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

42 replies
  1. john francis lee says:

    Tamerlan’s uncle was married to the daughter of a CIA agent … lived in his house in VA for a year!

    The Chechnya operation has been Jamestown/CIA from the beginning.

    I’m working on the assumption that Tamerlan was working for the CIA, on assignment in Chehnya/Dagestan.

    The FBI may have wanted to know more about the Chechnyan connection, but the CIA certainly didn’t want them to.

    This is like Coleen Rowley and Moussaoui’s laptop all over again.

    The Russians probably were not very interested in revealing what they knew about the CIA/Chechnyan operation to the FBI either.

    The Russian request for information on 4 March served to notify the CIA that the Russians were on to them.

    The CIA may have told the FBI that Tamerlan was their guy and not to worry, or more likely played dumb.

    But … the FBI did drop the case.

    When Tamerlan got on the flight to Russia, he popped up at the gate … but the customs guys were told ‘not to worry’.

    US ‘authorities’ hear nothing about Tamerlan’s activities in Russia, because the CIA didn’t tell them.

    I have no doubt that neither the Russians nor the CIA are ‘fully cooperating’ with people who want to know what actually happened.

    Tamerlan met with Nidal in Makhachkala and offered to play spigot for CIA cash.

    When Plotnikov was killed, Tamerlan got cold feet and came home.

    The information that indicates the brothers may well have picked up the bombs from others who actually put them together is very interesting.

    Did the brothers think the bombs were dummies? Did they place them as they were set up to do?

    Who did make the bombs? Who pulled the triggers?

    Obviously I’ve made-up all of the above, but from the presence of The Craft at the Marathon; the lockdown of Boston; the contradictory accounts of the actual events that took place; the history of the CIA vis a vis Moussaoui at 9/11; the deep, deep involvement of the CIA with the forces of darkness in the Caucasus; and the involvement of CIA personnel personally with the Dzhokhar family all make me believe the real terrorists are not yet in custody.

  2. FrankProbst says:

    Re: The cab ride. I’m not even convinced that these are even the Tsarnaev brothers, but even if they are, I don’t see anything unusual about this episode. I generally will not let cab drivers handle my laptop briefcase, and I don’t see anything unusual about not wanting the cab driver to toss your backpack around. As for it being heavy, um, so? The heaviest thing most people carry in backpacks are books. I think it’s far more likely that this cab driver gave two (cheap) college students a ride.

    Re: The pizza and pot murders. As far as I can tell, the MOST evidence we’re going to get on this is that the two brothers might have been at the scene at around the time of the murders. Since Dzhokhar was supposed to be a pot dealer, I don’t find this terribly surprising. The fact that there was a bunch of pot and $5k left at the scene makes me think it’s far less likely that Dzhokhar was involved in the killings, because I think he would’ve kept the pot and the cash. In any case, I can’t see Dzhokhar being charged with these killings unless he flat-out confesses.

    Re: The MIT police officer. I STILL don’t have a good timeline here. Was he killed before, during, or after the carjacking? It looks like prosecutors are trying to build a case against Dzhokhar for this murder, and I’m not really seeing it. It looks like Tamerlan had the gun the whole time, so I think he was the likely shooter. So the timeline needs to be very clear in order to implicate Dzhokhar and get some sort of charge to stick so that you can invoke the felony murder rule. (I’m assuming that’s where this is going.) If Tamerlan killed the MIT police officer before the carjacking, then I can’t see any evidence that Dzhokhar was involved in any felony AT THAT TIME that could link him to the murder.

    Re: The pizza and pot murders AND the MIT police officer. While I think that both of these cases should be investigated completely, I don’t see the point of actually filing charges in either case. The evidence is weak, and Massachusetts doesn’t have the death penalty. The feds are almost certainly going to get the death penalty here. Filing additional charges just seems like time and money-wasting grandstanding to me.

  3. emptywheel says:

    @FrankProbst: On the MIT officer, the reports say it happened before the car jacking. And, yeah, I’ve had the same thought you did. It’s not clear Dzhokhar can be implicated, though MA will try, just so its cops know they’ll be avenged.

  4. bmaz says:

    @emptywheel: I’m not so sure. As a parallel, here with Loughner, once the Feds had primary custody and pled him to a natural life sentence without parole, the state begrudgingly seems to have given up prosecuting him. And we have the death sentence here, so there IS something further that could be obtained. In Massachusetts, they have no death penalty, so there is no chance they can obtain anything additional. At some point, why pilfer the money from the state coffers for nothing?

  5. Ann MacGibbon says:

    Actually the DA announced right after the bodies were found in Waltham that authorities had information that two other people had been in the apartment before the murders and that they were looking for two suspects. That has never changed in any of the stories I’ve read over the the years.

    Cambridge is not that close to Waltham and certainly couldn’t be considered “in the area” for cell phone traffic. There are at 2-3 towns in between Cambridge and Waltham, depending on which route you take. The ABC article suggested there was “forensic evidence” that related to both brothers. I don’t know how reliable ABC’s source is, of course.

    When you refer to “commuter rail,” do you mean you think they could have transported the bombs from New Bedford or Dartmouth? I’m not sure if commuter trains go to Malden. I’ll have to check.

  6. omphaloscepsis says:

    The flights over Quincy appear to be a Cessna 182 (or more than one) using an EO/IR sensor.

    http://www.boston.com/yourtown/news/quincy/2013/05/photos_prove_suspicious_aircra.html

    A rough outline of the flight path:

    https://www.boston.com/yourtown/news/quincy/2013/05/low-flying_aircraft_causing_co.html

    ” . . . it passes my house in Wollaston, circles over Milton, Blue Hills, over Randolph, Holbrook and comes back to the same spot every eight minutes. ”

    A map of the area:

    http://docs.unh.edu/MA/blue48nw.jpg

    Cessna modification for law enforcement agencies:

    http://www.cessnaenforcer.com/

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?&v=txsHT36vCmo

    The sensor vendor:

    http://www.policeaviationnews.com/acrobat/192panewsapril2012.pdf

    “SkyIMD, Inc., provider of aerial imaging systems, has announced that Cessna Aircraft Company has selected the SkyFusion Pak system for the Cessna Enforcer. It provides law enforcement customers the ability to customise their new Cessna 172, 182 and 206 aircraft with the mission equipment they need for aerial surveillance and live video downlink.”

    http://skyimd.com/skyfusionpak.html

    The RKT Productions (whoever they are) fleet:

    http://www.regosearch.com/aircraft/us/461AJ

    http://www.regosearch.com/aircraft/us/323LP

    http://www.regosearch.com/aircraft/us/906TM

  7. emptywheel says:

    @Ann MacGibbon: Thanks for that DA detail. The article seems to suggest they’ve got DNA evidence from the crime scene. My point is just that’s not definitive, unless it’s blood or something, because the brothers might have reason to be there otherwise.

    As to “in the area,” I raised it bc it seemed to be a weird word choice. Not “in the cell tower area” or something that would be real evidence. If they weren’t in the same cell area, it in some ways would be exonerating, particularly since Tamerlan, if it’s right he worked at the pizza joint, would have reason to be there.

    According to the map, Malden Center is a dual station, both T and commuter rail. They could have transfered there to the orange line, and from there to the red, for a total of 10 stops, plus the transfer. I’m guessing that’s what they planned to do, but then for some reason chose to take a cab instead.

    There’s nothing on that line north of Malden Center that rings a bell for interesting location though. But I don’t know that corner of Boston area at all.

  8. emptywheel says:

    @omphaloscepsis: Very helpful, thanks.

    This bit is of particular interest.

    The tail number, N906TM, which can be seen in one photo, is registered to a company called RKT Productions. The only information that could be found on the company is a post office box in Bristow, Va.

  9. kris says:

    Has there been any follow up as to why Anzor Tsarnaev suddenly changed his mind about coming to the US? There was an article about his change of mind in which he was quoted as saying “”I don’t know whether I should talk or stay silent. I don’t want to harm my child. … We are used to all sorts of things here but we didn’t expect this from the United States.” What could he mean?

  10. Ann MacGibbon says:

    @emptywheel: I see what you mean now about “in the area.” My guess is that would have to mean either in Waltham or maybe Lexington; but it is too vague, I agree. The thing that I found so interesting was that on the day the bodies were found, DA Gerry Leone told the press that they had information that two other people had been in the apt. before the killings. He also said the killings were targeted, not random, and the perps and victims knew each other. Here’s a video of DA’s statement on 9/12/2011.

    http://tinyurl.com/cqjyj4e

    Here’s video from Ch. 5 the next day in which it is stated that authorities are looking for two suspects.

    http://tinyurl.com/bugycg9

    On Gerry’s kitchen, the owners claim neither Tsarnaev brother ever worked there, but the fact that no one answered the door at 8:45PM for the Gerry’s delivery person that night has been used (along w/info about last text messages sent) to establish that the murders actually occurred on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, which could obviously be significant if the Tsarnaevs were involved.

    On Malden station: That is very interesting. I can see why they might not want to take the T to Cambridge, because they would have to get to the Red Line first, and it would take a long time (besides the chance the bombs could somehow be set off). Then they’d have to walk to Norfolk St. Could Dzhokhor be protecting someone by claiming the bombs were made in the Cambridge apt.? ONTOH, why would they take the train instead of just driving to wherever they went to get whatever was in the backpacks?

    I found more interesting details on the Malden Patch. The driver said he didn’t see the men come out of Malden T station and there had been no recent trains. He said that “the two men abruptly ended the cab ride when he started to ask about their plans for the Boston Marathon.”

    http://tinyurl.com/cmt46yl

    From your link it sounds like T and D got out of the taxi after D told the driver they were Chechen.

  11. P J Evans says:

    @Ann MacGibbon:
    It also sounds like they were pretty clueless. Certainly not trained terrorists – everything they did was guaranteed to make people remember them.

  12. Gimme Shelter says:

    McClatchy: Report warned Boston Marathon was vulnerable to terrorism

    Five days before two bombs tore through crowds at the Boston Marathon, an intelligence report identified the finish line as an “area of increased vulnerability” and warned Boston police that homegrown extremists could use “small-scale bombings” to attack spectators and runners at the event.

    The 18-page report, similar to others sent to police and first responders before major events in the Boston area, was written by the Boston Regional Intelligence Center, which is funded in part by the Department of Homeland Security and helps disseminate intelligence information to local police and first responders.

    Massachusetts authorities dismissed the center’s warning as routine and lacking specifics.

    http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2013/05/11/190996/report-warned-boston-marathon.html#.UY6vU0quZjk

    “alright you’ve covered your ass now get out of here.”

  13. Snoopdido says:

    I agree that the prosecution of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev for MIT campus police officer Sean Collier’s death would be difficult and perhaps even unlikely given the publicly available information to date.

    In the reports of a video showing the shooting, they stated that the images of the shooter were unrecognizable. Even if law enforcement can match the expended bullets that killed Sean Collier with the gun found at the Watertown shootout site, it would seem that would only provide linkage to Tamerlan Tsarnaev and not to even the presence of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev at Sean Collier’s killing.

    These are some of the other missing details that I find important:

    1. Where did the handgun Tamerlan Tsarnaev use come from? Was it bought on the street, stolen, or sold to Tamerlan Tsarnaev from some quasi-legitimate source such as an out of state gun dealer?

    2. Who initiated the tracking of the carjacked Mercedes SUV owner’s cellphone? It doesn’t seem likely that it was the Watertown police since the carjacking took place in Cambridge. If it was the FBI or the State Police, why weren’t they at the scene of the Watertown shootout?

    3. How was it that with “at least a dozen police ­officers from four departments” (http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2013/05/06/bullet-that-nearly-killed-mbta-police-officer-watertown-gunfight-appears-have-been-friendly-fire/kIv9CYo0oVGBC3DlhFjelL/story.html)at the Watertown shootout, no one was able to keep track of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in the carjacked Mercedes SUV as he fled the scene?

    4. Which organizations were involved from those “four departments”, and if the FBI and the State Police were not involved, why not?

  14. P J Evans says:

    @Gimme Shelter:
    It’s true though – that’s a routine warning. It’s what anyone would expect as a general warning: no details, no specifics, nothing to say that something is going on.

  15. Ann MacGibbon says:

    @Snoopdido: Actually, the carjacking took place in Allston (which is in Boston), according to the victim.

    http://tinyurl.com/c5oft2o

    In an interview which I can’t find right now, the victim said Tamerlan carjacked him in Allston and then Dzhokhar followed in his car. Why they drove to Allston from MIT and then went back to Memorial Dr. in Cambridge, I have no idea. They obviously were not particularly organized criminals.

  16. Snoopdido says:

    @Ann MacGibbon: Thanks for the clarification! It’s good to have someone here with a local knowledge of the Boston area which I certainly don’t.

    I also found the answer to my 4th question in your link to that Boston.com article:

    “By the time Boston police, State Police, Watertown police, Transit Police and other officers confronted the Tsarnaevs early Friday morning after a Watertown officer spotted the stolen SUV, “we already knew these guys had admitted to killing three civilians and a police officer, and that they were prepared to kill many others,” the senior official said.”

    So where was the vaunted FBI? Or do they just work 9 to 5?

    I have to say that the Boston Globe and their online site Boston.com have had the best information on this subject. Locals do it best!

  17. pdaly says:

    @Ann MacGibbon:
    Why the brothers drove to Allston I have no idea, either (wasn’t the older brother’s martial arts/boxing studio in Allston? even if he was no longer attending it?). But they were looking for gas for the carjacked SUV, and no gas stations were open at that late hour according to the carjack victim, so they drove to the gas station in Cambridge at the intersection of River St and Memorial Drive (the Sunoco where they got the gas and the Mobil gas station across River Street to where the carjack victim ran for help and called 911).

    Up until now, I had heard/assumed that the carjacking took place on Memorial Drive, and I assumed/heard on the stretch of Memorial Drive in front of MIT, not Allston. Curious how this timeline is so slippery.

    Update: The Cambridge Police report places a car jacking near Third St, CAMBRIDGE and the carjacking victim released a half hour later at the gas station on Memorial Drive, Cambridge.
    http://www.cambridgema.gov/cpd/Alerts/citizenalerts/policedainvestigatingfatalshooting.aspx

    “A short time later, police received reports of an armed carjacking by two males in the area of Third Street in Cambridge. The victim was carjacked at gunpoint by two males and was kept in the car with the suspects for approximately a half hour. The victim was released at a gas station on Memorial Drive in Cambridge. He was not injured.”

    I wonder if the Cambridge Police Department will amend their timeline.

  18. pdaly says:

    @Ann MacGibbon:

    From your link to the Malden Patch “Duggan told Malden Patch said he did not see the men emerge from the T station itself.

    “They were about 20 feet away (from the train) when I first saw them, and there was not a recent train,” he wrote. ”

    It is helpful to know that Malden Center is also a hub for bus routes, in addition to the commuter rail (purple line) and subway (orange line).

  19. pdaly says:

    @pdaly:
    And the brothers were traveling through Malden Center station with their heavy backpacks the night before the Marathon so I don’t think that any travel restrictions were in place in preparation for the race the next morning.

  20. Citizen92 says:

    It seems odd to me a cab driver thinks a 20 pound backpack is heavy. Has this guy ever driven passengers to the airport with luggage? 50 pound suitcases?

  21. P J Evans says:

    @Citizen92:
    Maybe he was surprised because it was heavier than it looked – but you can put fifteen or twenty pounds of groceries in one non-plastic bag, and that’s the same size as a large backpack, and not too much to handle.

  22. Ann MacGibbon says:

    @Snoopdido: You’re welcome. There were many inaccurate reports that day. At first the implication was that the carjacking took place at MIT. That was the impression I had until the victim was interviewed.

  23. Ann MacGibbon says:

    @pdaly: Good point. I didn’t know that. I’m not at all familiar with Malden. I live in a town that borders Cambridge. I’m familiar with Watertown and Waltham, but not Malden area.

    But why weren’t they driving a car? That’s what I don’t understand.

  24. citizen92 says:

    Any reports if either brother had any association with the Islamic cultural center 4 blocks east of the T station in Malden?

  25. Ann MacGibbon says:

    @pdaly: Obviously it was pretty confusing that night, but the victim said it happened on Brighton Ave., Allston and that only Tamerlan held him at gunpoint. Here’s the interview in the Boston Globe:

    http://tinyurl.com/bmltkcs

    “The 26-year-old Chinese entrepreneur had just pulled his new Mercedes to the curb on Brighton Avenue to answer a text when an old sedan swerved behind him, slamming on the brakes. A man in dark clothes got out and approached the passenger window. It was nearly 11 p.m. last Thursday.

    The man rapped on the glass, speaking quickly. Danny, unable to hear him, lowered the window — and the man reached an arm through, unlocked the door, and climbed in, brandishing a silver handgun.
    “Don’t be stupid,” he told Danny. He asked if he had followed the news about Monday’s Boston Marathon bombings. Danny had, down to the release of the grainy suspect photos less than six hours earlier.

    “I did that,” said the man, who would later be identified as Tamerlan Tsarnaev. “And I just killed a policeman in Cambridge.”

    He ordered Danny to drive — right on Fordham Road, right again on Commonwealth Avenue — the beginning of an achingly slow odyssey last Thursday night and Friday morning in which Danny felt the possibility of death pressing on him like a vise.”

    Then Dzhokhar followed in the other car for “a zigzagging trek through Brighton, Watertown, and back to Cambridge”

    According to Danny, they stopped in Watertown Center where Dzhokhar withdrew money from Danny’s bank account. Somewhere in east Watertown, they stopped and loaded a bunch of stuff from the other car into Danny’s car, and Dzhokhar got into the back seat of the Mercedes and left the other car in Watertown. They were driving all over the place and then finally went back to Cambridge–who knows why–then back to Watertown after Danny escaped at the Shell station.

  26. emptywheel says:

    @Snoopdido: All good questions. I’ve been pondering the gun question for some time elsewhere.

    Note, too, that reports increasingly suggest the Merc tracking was done on its GPS, not the phone in it. But the question of which authority did it stands.

  27. emptywheel says:

    @Ann MacGibbon: I know Gerry’s kitchen is now saying they didn’t work there, but as I understand it, there’s quite a bit of evidence they both did at the time (or perhaps Dzhokhar had moved on, bc he would have been starting at school at that point). I wonder whether they want to bury that tie?

    I’ve wondered whether they didn’t have the Honda stashed there, since that’s where they dumped their fireworks shells.

  28. pdaly says:

    @Ann MacGibbon:
    It is odd that the Cambridge Police report of the carjacking is so site specific (near Third St and in Cambridge) and yet so wrong. Wonder if anything was happening on Third St. that night. Confusion from the execution style fatal shooting of the MIT police officer?

  29. Ann MacGibbon says:

    @pdaly: The shooting of the MIT patrolman was in the area of Third St., which goes out of Kendall Sq. near MIT.

    I don’t know why Cambridge PD said that the carjacking took place there, but I tend to trust the account of the victim over Cambridge PD doesn’t have a particularly strong reputation.

  30. Ann MacGibbon says:

    @emptywheel: Yes, I agree that Gerry’s Kitchen isn’t likely to admit either or both brothers worked there, especially if it was under the table. Why would they leave their car in Waltham though?

    Speaking of cars, I have long wondered about the story told by Dzhokhar’s mechanic Gilberto Junior of Somerville. After the bombings, D came in to pick up a white Mercedes that wasn’t ready yet–said he had to have it right away.

    Junior said that Dzhokhar often brought in luxury cars to be repaired, supposedly they belonged to friends of Tsarnaev from MIT and BU. I wondered if he was making money stealing cars or getting some kind of kickbacks. Junior described D. Tsarnaev wearing very expensive clothes and shoes, e.g. Louis Vuitton shoes. Here’s one link. http://tinyurl.com/ctgdbsz

    Also Globe article http://tinyurl.com/btxpfmp

  31. citizen92 says:

    I read that Chechen mob is #2 in the European drug trade. No idea of their footprint in USA. The bling, access to cars and clothes could indicate thatTamerlan was drawing income from the drug trade.

    Add in te murders in Waltham. The bodies were covered in pot? Perhaps Tamerlan was getting religion, shunning drugs to be a good Muslim, and proving a point to former friends and bad influences? And maybe he was pulling his former stoner little bro with him?

  32. Saul Tannenbaum says:

    I’m late to this (I don’t know how I missed it), but let me fill in what blanks I can.

    I was listening into police radio scanners the night of Sean Collier’s killing and the immediate police report was that the car jacking took place in Kendall Square. The Globe account, of course, contradicts that. But Danny, the victim, did work in Kendall Square which is where he was coming from when he was carjacked. That could have been the source of the report at the time. At the time of the report of the carjacking, police were swarming the Kendall Square area, stopping and searching subway trains, and the like. I think this is understandable human error in the heat of an adrenaline filled moment.

    The police “report” pointed to on the CPD web site isn’t a report, it’s an immediate alert. Every law enforcement agency in Cambridge had a lesson in the need for fast communication earlier in the year when somebody SWAT-ed MIT, bringing down armed SWAT teams to sweep MIT after the falee report of an active shooter. MIT took to heart that they were slow in alerting their community, as was, to a lesser extent, Cambridge PD. They were all communicating everything they knew as quickly as they knew.

    (Of course, that report should have been time and date stamped, and updated.)

    There remains a lot of confusion about that night, none of which probably matters. I can’t, for example, figure out which 7/11 was said to have been robbed by the Tsarnaevs, a robbery they were then said not to have committed. It took a ridiculous amount of work to figure out which gas station Danny escaped in (until Danny’s interview, then it was obvious).

    And important items, like how armed were the Tsarnaevs, and did Dzhokhar have a gun in the boat in Watertown, have clarifications trickling out.

    For my part, I have a whole series of questions into the Cambridge Police, focused on information sharing with Federal law enforcement. The House DHS Committee, for inexplicable reasons, decided that it wanted to hear from the Boston PD about that. But, with the Tsarnaevs resident in Cambridge, if they were going to share, it would start with the Cambridge PD. I don’t have any expectation that I’ll get answers, but I imagine that, once Cambridge comes to grip with what’s happened, there’ll be more serious questons asked.

    (It’s hard to describe to outsider how much this has shaken Cambridge. But consider that Cambridge Rindge and Latin not only graduated one of the alleged bombers, but it had faculty and staff seriously wounded in the bombing. Cambridge is a small town. You either know a victim or know somebody who knows a victim, and you either encountered/knew the Tsarnaevs, or know someone who did.)

  33. emptywheel says:

    @citizen92: Dzhokhar never gave up the pot or pot selling.

    Yeah, I keep thinking back to the mob, too. The Chechen mobster who used to live next door to the family in Kyrgzstan got out of prison, early, w/no credible explanation, 6 days before the attack and then went straight to Chechnya.

  34. emptywheel says:

    @Saul Tannenbaum: Yeah, the BPD at the hearing instead of CPD was pretty dumb, bc the CPD would have been the ones you’d want to know abt the FBI alert.

    There were a lot of missed opportunities w/that hearing. Why invited Holy Joe when he had no actual knowledge of the attack to add?

  35. stratocruiser says:

    So, If the brothers didn’t want the taxi driver to touch the backpacks, how did they end up in the trunk.
    In all my taxi using (limited by the fact I’m a Houstonian) I can’t imagine a driver caring enough to want my backpack in the trunk. Is this normal?
    Or are these manufactured memories?

  36. Citizen92 says:

    @emptywheel

    Indeed, The advanced release of Aziz Batukaev from a Kirgyz prison seems to have caught many by surprise. He is described as a “kingpin” of crime and his premature release has been the subject of debate in Parliament. He even had a private plane waiting for him. Any reason why the west or Russia would want him out of jail? The U.S. has the huge transshipment base in Manas, and an oversized influence in Kirgyz affairs.

    http://www.cacianalyst.org/publications/field-reports/item/12710-criminal-boss-released-from-prison-in-kyrgyzstan.html

    How do we know they were neighbors with that Tsarnaevs?

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