(See postscript below — The Boston police commissioner has admitted that Tsarnaev was in the perimeter all along. That’s good enough for me. I can go back to more productive activities, like sleeping and mowing the lawn.)
Ok, I’m going to stop writing about this until someone in the media or someone writing a book explains exactly where the police searched for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev after the gun battle in Watertown. Then I can write that someone has finally offered a better explanation of why they didn’t find him during the manhunt.
But first —
I still think the guy was inside the famous 20-block perimeter all the time (not that it matters, of course, in the grand scheme of things).
Here is a map of Watertown that shows the streets discussed in this post. Point A is near where Tsarnaev abandoned his getaway car. Point B is where he was captured:
The NY Times has published a long article that begins with the murder of the M.I.T. officer and concludes with the capture at 67 Franklin Street. Here’s what they say about the search in the “20-block perimeter”:
“I yelled to the cops, ‘Watch out!’ ” Mr. Doucette said in an interview. But the car hit the wounded brother, he said, and “his body was tumbling underneath.”
As Friday dawned, state officials urged people in the Boston area to stay behind locked doors, and all transit service was shut down — paralyzing the metropolitan area as officials searched for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. That evening they lifted the order, fearing he had escaped.
That’s not terribly informative (maybe the editors cut something), but next to the article, the Times has provided excerpts picked up by police scanners. One selection, labeled “Hunting for the Suspects” is 1 minute and 59 seconds long:
These excerpts confirm that the abandoned getaway car (the hijacked SUV) was found at the corner of Lincoln and Spruce. (Lincoln and Spruce is between points A and B on the map above.)
An officer then refers to someone (possibly himself) being on foot near Dexter and Laurel, where the gun battle occurred earlier that night.
Next, someone advises officers not to investigate around Lincoln Street (in the vicinity of the SUV) without a partner.
Then someone relays an order to set up a perimeter between Mount Auburn and Arsenal Streets, an area that includes 67 Franklin Street (where Tsarnaev was captured) and the SUV, but also extends eastward past Dexter and Laurel (scene of the gun battle) all the way to Arlington Street (at the eastern edge of the map above).
A senior officer then states that he is at 98 Spruce Street, a few houses south of the abandoned SUV. He says that the search perimeter needs to be expanded in 4 directions, centered around 98 Spruce. He wants a perimeter in a 3-block radius from that location (this is a relatively small area within the larger Mount Auburn-Arsenal-Arlington perimeter).
Depending on how you count the blocks, which aren’t consistently shaped, it looks as if a 3-block radius from 98 Spruce would include 67 Franklin Street at its western edge.
This is a map showing the distance between 98 Spruce and 67 Franklin (according to Google, it’s 0.3 miles and a 6-minute walk — less if you cut through people’s backyards).
The same officer then says the perimeter should be “at least 2-blocks deep for now”, which might leave 67 Franklin out of the immediate search, “and then expand it”, presumably putting 67 Franklin back in.
Another officer relays an order to maintain the perimeter at the Mount Auburn and Arsenal boundaries, but to move the boundary on the east side to School Street (which runs parallel to Arlington). This eliminates the area around the gun battle, which happened east of School Street, and tightens the perimeter around the the SUV and Franklin Street.
This officer then goes on to say “2 blocks away [from 98 Spruce] is also Walnut Street, which runs from School to Mount Auburn”. This indicates that the 2-block radius mentioned above (which was supposed to be expanded to 3-blocks later on) was bounded by Walnut Street and did not include Franklin Street.
The senior officer who spoke before then says “O.k. Once we have officers complete that, expand it 2 more blocks [i.e. from 2 to 4] from those areas [meaning 4 blocks from 98 Spruce]… We have plenty of police officers here. Let’s start utilizing them. From 98 Spruce, 2 blocks and then 4 blocks”.
That’s where the audio ends. A 4-block perimeter centered on 98 Spruce Street would have included 67 Franklin Street, which is just 1 block from Walnut Street, and 3 blocks from 98 Spruce.
Unfortunately, there aren’t any timestamps on this recording, so it’s not clear when all this happened. In one press conference, the Watertown police chief said that blood was found at a house after the SUV was abandoned (maybe this was 98 Spruce Street). He also says that Tsarnaev didn’t go directly to 67 Franklin, suggesting that, at some point, the suspect may have crossed one of the smaller perimeters on foot without being detected.
So it still isn’t clear whether the police searched around 67 Franklin, before or after Tsarnaev found his way there.
The police chief has explained that Tsarnaev wasn’t found earlier because he was hiding 1 block outside the search perimeter. If that’s true, the search never went beyond Walnut Street, 2 blocks from 98 Spruce.
Yet there was an order to search 4 blocks away from that address. 67 Franklin is clearly within that 4-block radius.
And, of course, Franklin Street is well-within the larger Mount Auburn-Arsenal-School Street perimeter. That larger perimeter roughly corresponds to a 20-block area of Watertown, and it’s been stated many times that the search in Watertown involved 20 square blocks.
I’m surprised and embarrassed (and pleased) to see that this information is on the last page of the Times article cited above:
“Police officials initially said the boat was in the backyard of a house just outside the perimeter of the area where investigators had conducted door-to-door searches all day. But Commissioner Davis, of the Boston police, said this week that the boat had been inside the perimeter.
‘It was an area that should have been checked,’ he said. ‘We are not sure how long he was in the boat. There was a pool of blood near where the car was dumped about four or five blocks away from the boat.’
I confess that I didn’t read the last page of the article, since the reporters skipped over the manhunt so quickly, I assumed they didn’t have anything more to say on the matter.
It’s also kind of interesting that the Times article may have been the first place this news was printed. A Google search just showed that the quote from the police commissioner has only been printed on 4 other sites, all in the past 14 hours.
This, therefore, is another change that should be added to this article from Salon: