The eight police officers from Watertown, Mass., who engaged in the infamous firefight with the accused Boston Marathon bombers recalled their harrowing ordeal in an exclusive interview with the New York Post on Monday.
Watertown officer Joseph Reynolds was the first cop to catch sight of Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev hours after the two brothers had been publicly identified by the FBI as lead suspects in the Marathon case. The Tsarnaevs allegedly set off pressure cooker bombs at the finish line on April 15 that killed 3 and injured 267 others. They allegedly killed an M.I.T. police officer a few days later as they tried to flee the area.
“I was in my patrol car, just doing routine,” Reynolds told the Post.
At 12:41 a.m. on April 19, Watertown’s dispatcher alerted him and all other units that a carjacked Mercedes SUV had been traced to their jurisdiction. Reynolds then saw a car that matched the description.
When Reynolds approached in his cruiser, the vehicle came to a stop. Tamerlan got out and started shooting. Meanwhile, Sgt. John MacLellan had been driving toward the scene in his own cruiser and quickly got on the radio.
“My thing was, I didn’t know how many guys there were,” said MacLellan. “I didn’t know what type of weapons they had. We weren’t set up. We weren’t ready for this. I needed to create some sort of diversion.”
MacLellan jumped out of his cruiser and sent it rolling toward the Tsarnaevs. Over the next few minutes, the brothers threw four pipe bombs, the first of which blew out the windows of the empty cop car. The next two were duds, but the fourth detonated. While it damaged nearby cars and houses, neither cop was injured.
“When it exploded it made my eyes shake sideways,” said MacLellan. “It was huge. It was a crazy percussion inside your chest.”
Also approaching the scene were Sgt. Jeffrey Pugliese and Officer Michael Comick. Pugliese was moving toward the brothers from a nearby backyard, while Comick—only four months on the job—pulled up in his cruiser.
“Just when I’m looking up to see what’s going on, the big pressure cooker went off,” Comick said of the fifth explosion. “That was a very loud bang, and a big glow that lit up the entire night.”
Meanwhile, Tamerlan rushed toward Pugliese and the two exchanged gunfire. When Pugliese jumped Tamerlan, Dzhokhar hopped into the Mercedes and started speeding toward them.
“The next thing I knew, the headlights were right here in my face, and I had to let go of Tamerlan,” recalled Pugliese.
While Pugliese was able to dive out of the way, Tamerlan was hit. The SUV dragged him 25 feet before speeding away.
The firefight was over: Tamerlan was killed, while every cop who participated in the takedown lived. Dzhokhar soon ditched the car just a half-mile from the shootout and would later be found hiding in a neighbor’s boat.
“I’m wondering, what were they gonna do in New York?” reflected MacLellan, who noted that the Tsarnaev brothers were allegedly planning on making a break for the Big Apple. “Were they going to go after kids? Police officers? Were they going to some random place, try to kill whoever they could kill and then go out in a blaze of glory?”
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was indicted on 30 charges, is currently being held in a federal prison outside Boston. He’s scheduled to be arraigned on Wednesday at the U.S. District Court in Boston.