Investigators recall the chaos that followed the Boston Marathon bombing

March 24, 2014

A Boston police car drives over the painted finish line from last year’s Boston Marathon. (Gretchen Ertl/Reuters)

Nearly a year after the Boston Marathon bombing and mayhem that followed, officials who spearheaded the investigation recalled the chaos of that week and defended the decision to release photos of the suspects.

Speaking with “60 Minutes” for a segment that aired Sunday night, Rick DesLauriers, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Boston division, recalled feeling “the weight of the world” that week.

The FBI released video and photos of the two suspects three days after the bombing. Later that same day, the suspects allegedly killed a police officer and engaged in a shootout with police. One of the suspects died after the confrontation, but the other escaped, prompting a massive, daylong lockdown covering Boston and surrounding suburbs. Sean Collier, an officer with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology police, was killed before the shootout and ensuing manhunt.

Scott Pelley: Was putting the pictures out the right call?

Stephanie Douglas [FBI executive assistant director]: Yes, I think at the end of the day, we really had no choice. Believe me, the death of Sean Collier is not lost on the FBI. We consider it an incredibly tragic event. But I think at the end of the day, given the facts as we knew them at the time, we made the best decision.

DesLauriers agreed, adding that the fear of additional bombings drove their thinking.

Scott Pelley: How do you feel about that decision now?

Rick DesLauriers: I stand by that decision, Scott. Nobody could have reasonably foreseen that a police officer would be murdered. What could reasonably be foreseen is that these individuals could have had more bombs could have set those bombs off and caused carnage similar or even greater to than what they caused on April 15th.

Adding to the uncertainty that week: Erroneous reports on Wednesday, two days after the bombing, that a suspect had been identified and that an arrest was happening. The Associated Press, CNN and the Boston Globe all reported that an arrest had either been made or was imminent, something other media outlets disputed; as a result, police and federal officials asked the media to exercise caution when reporting. (In addition, the New York Post put two people on its cover under the headline “BAG MEN” — the wrong people, as it turned out.)

U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz, whose office is prosecuting the case against surviving suspect Dzokhar Tsarnaev, told “60 Minutes” that these kinds of reports can lead to “tremendous risk and harm.” It gives the public a false sense of security and puts people — like the two on the “BAG MEN” cover — at risk, she said.

Watch the entire “60 Minutes” segment here:

Mark Berman is a reporter on the National staff. He runs Post Nation, a destination for breaking news and developing stories from around the country.
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Mark Berman · March 24, 2014