20 April 2013

The Gripping Story of the Chase for the Boston Marathon Bombers

Forget about your afternoon teleseryes. Yesterday’s drama in suburban Boston has got to be the most gripping television fare that I have watched in years! I was glued to CNN for hours yesterday afternoon wondering how the story would conclude.

I first got a whiff late in the morning of the unfolding story because of a post on Facebook by ABS-CBN. It was about an emergency announcement on the Massachussetts Institute of Technology web site warning students to stay away from one of the buildings because a cop had been shot.

My immediate reaction to the post was how in hell could ABS-CBN even be aware of something that was going on in a New England university campus. I turned on the TV and tuned in to CNN. The anchor wasn’t even aware of the MIT shooting; and it was not until another 5 minutes had elapsed before she first mentioned that, indeed, there was some shooting at the campus but that there were no details as yet.

I turned the TV off to prepare and subsequently eat lunch. I am subscribed to several news accounts on Twitter; and a quick check of the social network after lunch showed that police activity had started to pick up at MIT.


This morning, when I turned the TV back on to see what had happened while I slept, fortuitously word was that the police were trying to flush the suspect out from some citizen’s boat somewhere. I even tuned in to a police scanner being streamed live by somebody over the Internet, can you believe that!
So, I turned the television back on and caught a shot not only of frenetic police presence at the campus and nearby but, unmistakably, the letters FBI at the back of the jacket worn by one of the officers. That was curious. If this was a local event, what was the FBI doing there?

Before long, the anchors themselves were trying to confirm if, indeed, the FBI was involved in the police presence at MIT. Hats off to these CNN reporters and anchors. They are all professionals. None was prepared to say outright that the FBI was involved unless it could be confirmed by a credible source; and this was after their own cameras has flashed the jacket that I mentioned earlier.

The implication was quickly apparent to viewers. In fact, when I first tuned in to CNN before lunch, the report that I caught was on the FBI having released photos of the two men seen looking suspicious on the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing earlier in the week.

The CNN staff were all careful not to obvertly connect the dots between the marathon bombing and the shooting at MIT; but everyone could see from their excitement at the presence of the FBI that they somehow suspected that there was a connection.

I admired them for their professional caution; but admired them even more for intuitively knowing that something big unfolding. The BBC World Service was still only casually interested at this point; but CNN had already scrambled its reporters from out of their beds and stayed with the unfolding story.

Before long, the action had swung to another suburban community called Watertown several miles away from MIT. Initial reports were sketchy; but soon word leaked to the reporters that two suspects in the MIT shooting had robbed a store, stolen a car and then were chased to Watertown by the police.

During the chase, the suspects and the police were shooting at each other. Moreover, the suspects were hurling what seemed like grenades back at the police as they drove along. Explosions were heard by witnesses interviewed.

This was around mid-afternoon here in the Philippines; and CNN showed video footages of a man lying face down on the ground with his arms spread out on the road in a crucifixion pose. Soon, there was another footage of another man forced by police to strip off completely before being escorted to a police car and whisked away.

Things were still blurry at this point and what little the reporters knew was about the chase having concluded in Watertown. One of the suspects had been killed but the other had gotten away. The posture of the man on the road and the stripping of another man was later explained as precautionary because the suspect killed earlier had on a suicide vest, i.e. a bomb-laden vest.

Of course, later it became obvious that neither of the arrested gentlemen was the suspect who had gotten away; and both were subsequently released.

I could not help but compare the police operations at MIT and in Watertown to how things are done in this country. The media was kept sensibly away from the action in contrast to, say, the hostage-taking near the Luneta grandstand a few years back.

The CNN reporters were all tuned in to police scanners, i.e. they were monitoring the police radio frequency. I don’t know about other news stations; but the CNN staff were always careful about mentioning anything picked up from the scanners that could compromise the police operations.

Not that any of the police mumbo-jumbo really meant anything because the CNN reporters were all kept in the dark and told nothing that they didn’t need to know. I thought PNP officers, if there were any who were tuned in to the operations, could have picked up a thing or two from what was going on.

Before long, a spokesperson for the Boston PD finally spoke to the media to not only explain the developments but also to warn citizens of the gravity of the situation. The press conference was brief and it was again noteworthy that the media was not told anything that they didn’t need to know or anything that could compromise operations.

The main point was to inform citizens of Watertown and neighbouring communities that a door-to-door sweep was to be conducted and that everyone should stay indoors. It was also finally confirmed that, indeed, the man earlier killed as well as the second one now the subject of a manhunt were suspects of the marathon bombing earlier in the week.

As the hours passed, the extent of the manhunt became known. Watertown and neighbouring communities were in what was called a ‘lockdown.’ Citizens were told to stay indoors and not to let in anyone except for properly identified police officers. Public transportation was frozen and businesses, schools and other organisations were told not to open for the day.

By evening, as the door-to-door manhunt was conducted, action at CNN died down somewhat; although suffice it to say that the area where the manhunt was being conducted was understandably tense.

For the second time in half a day, ABS-CBN amazed me. TV Patrols’s coverage of the events in New England was no different from those by CNN. However, towards the end of the news show, anchor Noli de Castro read breaking news from Associated Press that the two suspects were of Chechen origin.

I quickly got up to my PC to verify the information with the AP web site; but there was nothing there. I channel-hopped to CNN but there was nothing there, either. Juan de la Cruz was coming on so I shoved the matter aside so I could watch the serye.

When I checked back with CNN after Juan de la Cruz, by this time the network had confirmed that, indeed, the two suspects were from originally from the troubled Russian area of Chechnya. The suspect still loose was 19-year old Dzhokar Tsarnaev and the dead suspect was his older brother Tamerlan.

To ABS-CBN, I say, “Way to go!”

I monitored CNN on and off till it was time to go to sleep; but there was nothing of interest being reported except the ongoing manhunt, from which media was kept away. I just couldn’t imagine a similar manhunt being conducted in Metro Manila with the same efficiency. The uzis and the tambays would have gotten in the way.

This morning, when I turned the TV back on to see what had happened while I slept, fortuitously word was that the police were trying to flush the suspect out from some citizen’s boat somewhere. I even tuned in to a police scanner being streamed live by somebody over the Internet, can you believe that!

The jargon was, of course, all Greek to me.

In a few more minutes, Boston Police announced – where else but on Twitter – that ‘the suspect is in custody.’ That was very good news indeed, thank you very much! I suppose everyone’s greatest fear was that Dzhokar would turn himself upon discovery into a human bomb; and, therefore, potentially take more innocent lives.

Thus ended what has been a totally fascinating story. Or has it?

There are still plenty of loose ends to tie up, foremost of which is determining who is really behind the attacks on the Boston Marathon. The Tsarnaevs might have planted the bombs – and this is not even fully established as yet – but what was the motivation? Moreover, is there a terror group involved?

Despite the fact that their pictures were released to the public by the FBI, instead of going underground the brothers only called attention to themselves by shooting a university police officer. Why?

Why is a 19-year old who friends say on CNN is a perfectly normal young man the prime remaining suspect to a heinous crime that killed four and maimed more than a hundred? Dzhokar Tsarnaev is no more than a boy, really. What has become of the world that we live in?











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