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Boston Area on Lockdown For Manhunt

Aired April 19, 2013 - 12:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Brother, the older brother, died after a shootout with police. We're told he was wearing explosives and a triggering device when he died. This dramatically intensified overnight. Police say the suspects shot and killed an MIT police officer, 26-year-old Sean Collier. They then carjacked a man at gunpoint. Police chased down the suspects in the stolen car. That's when the shootout happened.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: And right now, all the Boston area schools are closed. Businesses are closed. Public transportation shut down. Wolf almost wasn't able to get here when he landed at Logan Airport coming back. So, why? Abundance of caution. Explosives are involved. They want to have less opportunities for invasion by this suspect, hence the instruction everyone stay in your homes if you can because officers are going door-to-door right now.

BLITZER: Chris Lawrence is over at the campus of the University of Massachusetts in Dartmouth. (INAUDIBLE) actually had been registered there as a student. At this hour the campus is closed and controlled evacuation, that -- those are the words, a controlled evacuation on the campus is underway.

Chris, what are you learning?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): You know, Wolf, we're standing here basically surrounded by police. Not only University of Mass Dartmouth Police, but state police as well, as well as local officials. And we're seeing just literally dozens and hundreds of students streaming off of the campus. We've had a chance to talk to a few of them. One of the students said basically they got an e-mail earlier saying that the campus was on lockdown. Then their R.A.s started coming to their door, door by door, saying, look, you've got to go, you've got to evacuate the campus.

And then we ran into a few students who were sitting outside the campus who say they know Tsarnaev (ph). That they went to high school with them. One of the young men we spoke with says he remembers Tsarnaev being a wrestler. He said he thought he was in some advanced placement classes in high school. He said we weren't great friends, but he said I did know him back in high school. He said he was a good guy. Never saw any signs of problems or anything like that. Hadn't kept up with him too much in college, but said he had seen him around campus a bunch of times and was just pretty much blown away by the news that's come out in the last 24 hours or so.

BLITZER: I think everyone seems to be shocked. You know, Chris, you're there, Chris Lawrence. You know, in this type of a situation, once we begin to learn more and more and more, there may have been a public face for these two brothers, but clearly something was going on behind the scenes that very few, if any, of their friends or associates knew anything about. That's the picture you're getting over at the college campus where you are, right?

LAWRENCE: By far, Wolf. No one here that we've been talking to had any sort of indication so far that something like this was even possible. A lot of the students here were sort of shocked to, you know, go from e-mail and web postings about, you know, this potential link. And then some of the students said they could see U Mass Dartmouth Police literally putting police tape around that dorm. They said they had a pretty clear view of that. And they knew it was serious when they started to see state police officers and just the sheer amount of police that were sort of descending on their campus. And many of them now are standing outside campus or have tried to call their parents, mom and dad, to see if they can get picked up. Some of them trying to call friends in the area to see if they can come stay with them because right now they're being told they can't go back on to campus.

BLITZER: That University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth campus, how far is it from downtown Boston, Chris?

LAWRENCE: Took us about an hour. It's about an hour drive. Maybe, you know, 50, 60 miles from Boston Proper.

BLITZER: Chris Lawrence on the campus.

Chris Cuomo is watching all of this unfold. Let's just reset, Chris.

The younger brother, 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, he's on the loose right now. He is somewhere. We don't know where. Authorities are looking. They believe maybe an associate is holed up in Watertown. That's where Deb Feyerick is. And that's why that enormous military and police presence there is underway.

CUOMO: We've been checking in with Deb. We have her back up on the line right now.

Deb, what's the latest?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We can tell you - I want to tell you -- sorry, I'm juggling phones and iPhones and everything else. We want to tell you that we're being told that, in fact, a SWAT team is making entry into one of the buildings there.

Now, this is going to happen all day. Earlier I reported there's sort of an ebb and flow of people going in, people going out. They had somebody on the ground who was contained, who was circled. A lot of police cars around him. Now they're making entry into a house. Could be related. Could not be related.

But, again, what the teams are trying to do is they're trying to make sure that they go to every single known area that this person may have been. This is just following leads. This is just following up the leads that they have to follow-up on. They had somebody on the ground. And now we are told that, in fact, they're making entry - a SWAT team is making entry into one of the homes.


CUOMO: All right, Deb, thank you.

Just so that they understand the context here. They have asked for a Russian translator, OK. It became confusing. And then we got word from investigators, this isn't about the suspect, it's about somebody we believe who either is an associate in a coordinated effort or just someone who can help us get closer to him.

So they have brought in that translator. That's what Deb is referring to. And all of this turns on something that happened that was completely unexpected. Investigators say they believe it was pressure from putting out the pictures and video of these two suspects that made them do something stupid. They robbed a convenience store. Maybe they were desperate. It offsets the idea of this being a larger planned event because they had no exit plan.

After robbing this convenience store, they hijacked a vehicle, took a hostage whom later was either released or was able to escape. They told the hostage, we are the marathon bombers. That's what the hostage says he was told by them. They then senselessly -- they were not confronted by this MIT security officer, Sean Collier. At least that's what we're told from investigators. And they go up and they kill him. That is what precipitated this manhunt. Why they decided to do this, why they decided to create this violent exchange, we don't know.

In the car chase, they then were throwing improvised devices, explosive devices, out of the window, hand grenades. Some went off. Some didn't. They wound up having to stop. One of the suspects got out, was shot, allegedly was run over by his brother in his attempt to escape and died at the hospital later on. We're told he had an explosive vest on. That triggers concerns about what this suspect could have on, Wolf.


CUOMO: They're worried that he may have a vest on as well.

BLITZER: Because this 26-year-old brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, he's dead. But when they found him, he did have those explosive devices, what could only be described as a suicide vest or whatever on his body with explosives. We don't know if he tried to trigger it, it didn't work or whatever.

CUOMO: We don't know.

BLITZER: But that's why there's such concern right now that this younger brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, only 19 years old, and had been registered a student at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, he also may have one of these suicide vests or explosive devices on his body. CUOMO: And there's an extended concern that wherever he goes may be a stronghold, a cash of explosives. It's not unusual, as you well know, when people are getting ready to be a bomber, they practice, they experiment. They have to figure out how to do things. There may be other devices, pipe bombs authorities have said they're worried about being placed in random areas. They don't know what the plan was.

However, all of that is also cutting against a different theory that some investigators have, which is, well, if this was planned for them to lead us through this, they would have never started it the way they did. Again, a lot of speculation by investigators as they try to put this puzzle together.

BLITZER: And we know that the older brother, who is now dead, was a naturalized U.S. citizen, only a year or so ago, got his U.S. citizenship. The younger brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, only 19 years old, he does have a green card, so he's legal here in the United States.

There seems to be some confusion though. Were they from Kyrgyzstan, Kirghizia, Kazakhstan, Chechnya, one of those predominantly Muslim areas of the former soviet Union?

CUOMO: The uncle says, family's Chechen, Muslim, American loving as they've assimilated here. That the brothers went through Kyrgyzstan. That's how they got the visa to come here. And then there was an asylum. He used the word asylum in his press conference.

However, the boys are here without the uncle's brother, who is their father. The father's supposedly not here. And -

BLITZER: The mother is here though.

CUOMO: Right. And they - and his point was that they had immigrated through Kyrgyzstan into here but then became part of American life. Went to school. The older brother, now dead, was a successful boxer. Allegedly wanted to box for the country. Went to Salt Lake, Utah, as a boxer. The other brother competed in high school sports, had friends, jobs, and then this.

BLITZER: You know, I want to replay right now what we heard just a little while ago. This is the uncle of these two brothers. The uncle's name, Ruslan Tsarni. We're going to hear from him. He lives here in the United States. He's going to be speaking about his two nephews, these two suspects.


RUSLAN TSARNI, UNCLE OF BOMBING SUSPECTS: First of all, I'm sorry (ph). I what to speak on behalf of (INAUDIBLE). What happened and what we heard this morning about people we associated for I would say by (ph) family, my family associated, I want to start and I will finish with that. First, the only purpose here is just to deliver our condolences and to share grief (ph) with the victims here (ph). Those who have been murdered, those who have been injured. This boy, this Chinese girl, this young 29 years old girl (INAUDIBLE). I've just been following this. I've been following it from the very -- from day one, but never ever would imagine that somehow the children of my brother would be associated with that. So it is atrocity. We're devastated. We're shocked. And again, I don't know if this (ph) family does not know how to share that grief with the (INAUDIBLE) victims. That's pretty much --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What could you tell us about your nephews?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When was the last time you saw them?

TSARNI: I don't know. We've not been with touch - in touch with that family for number of years. For number of years.


TSARNI: For -- pardon me?


TSARNI: No, they never lived here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Never lived here?

TSARNI: They never live here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When was the last time you saw them?

TSARNI: The last time I saw them was 2006 and that was -- I'm sorry, December 2005.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you ever know them to have any ill-will towards the United States?

TSARNI: No. No. No. I never knew it. Even if I had to guess or something, I would just have meet (ph) them myself. (INAUDIBLE) my family.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you think -- what do you think provoked this?

TSARNI: Being losers, hatred for those who were able to settle themselves. These are the only reasons I can imagine of. Anything else, anything else to with (ph) religion, with Islam, it's a fraud, it's a fake.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did they have any military training at all?

TSARNI: No. So (INAUDIBLE), again, I've seen them when they were kids.



TSARNI: We seen them only in 2005.




TSARNI: We're Muslims. We're Chechens. We're ethnic Chechen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have any kids that were close to them?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think that they were - do you think that they were (INAUDIBLE) that area?

TSARNI: If that happened, most likely somebody radicalized them. But it's not my brother who just moved back to Russia, who spent his life bringing bread to their table, fixing cars, fixing cars. He didn't have time or chance or anything options. He's been working. That's it.


TSARNI: No, no, no. I have not seen -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) take a step forward.

TSARNI: (INAUDIBLE) and I didn't talk with my brother. No. I don't know anything about that that. Again -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have children who are close to them?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have children that are close to them?

TSARNI: No. My family has nothing to do with that family.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you think of -


TSARNI: Pardon me?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you ashamed by what has unfolded in Boston?

TSARNI: Of course we're ashamed. Yes, we're ashamed. They're children of my brother, who has little influence over them, honestly, as much as I know, who has little influence of them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there any reason why you haven't had any contact with them? You had a falling out or anything?

TSARNI: It's a personal. It's a personal.


TSARNI: I didn't like - so I just wanted - I just wanted my family be away from them. That's it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would you - you seem -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Want went on here?

TSARNI: Again, (INAUDIBLE), I say what I think what's behind it, being losers. Not being able to settle themselves and thereby just hating everyone who did.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, when you saw their -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) been in the United States, sir?

TSARNI: I've been in the United States since -- oh, they - they came early, since 2003.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why are they in Cambridge?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why did they live in Massachusetts?

TSARNI: They came - they came - they came to -- when they moved to the states and they - so they moved - they came to Cambridge area.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why? What took them there? What took them there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) about the United States. When you got here -

TSARNI: They immigrated. They immigrated. They immigrated and they received asylum.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Were they going to school? Were they working there?

TSARNI: Yes, they lived there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did they go to college?

TSARNI: Well, I hope they were. I don't know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, when you say -

TSARNI: When they grew up, when they grew up, as I said, me myself and this family has nothing to do with them for long, long time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do you feel about America? How do you feel about -

TSARNI: At least last time I spoke with my - well it was about 2009.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do you feel about America? What do you think of the United States?

TSARNI: I say I teach my children, and that's what I feel myself, this is the ideal microworld (ph) an entire world. I respect this country. I love this country. This country, which gives chance to everybody else to be treated as a human being and to just to be human beings, to feel yourself human being. That's what I feel about this country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, were your nephews caught up in the violence in Chechnya?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you give us a proper name, the spelling of your proper name?

TSARNI: My name is Ruslan, R-U-S-L-A-N, last name, Tsarni, T-S-A-R-N- I.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As far as you know, were they involved in any sort of training?

TSARNI: I don't know. I don't know. Again, I don't know.

I've seen them as a kid, and if I even slightly be aware that they were involved, I would be first one to bring them into responsibility.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were they ever caught up in the fighting in Chechnya?

TSARNI: No. They've never been in Chechnya. This has nothing to do with Chechnya. Chechens are (inaudible). They're peaceful people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where were they born there in Chechnya?

TSARNI: One of them, Dzhokhar, he was born in (inaudible). That's a neighboring region to Chechnya, (inaudible).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, when you saw the pictures on the news, did you recognize them?

TSARNI: I saw them only this morning when I was contacted from 7:00 a.m. with reporters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you saw the pictures on the news last night, did you recognize them?

TSARNI: The picture when they said have you seen the pictures, my wife opened up Internet. And on AOL, I saw picture of Dzhokhar.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you say to Dzhokhar right now?

TSARNI: I say, Dzhokhar, if you're alive, turn yourself in and ask for forgiveness. And the victim, from the injured and from those who left, ask forgiveness from these people.

We're not requiring forgiveness in this family. He put a shame on this family -- not our family, Tsarnaev family. He put a shame on the entire Chechen ethnicity because everyone now names (inaudible) Chechen.

So they put that shame on the entire ethnicity. So, that's what I would think.

Turn yourself in. And whatever -- what I mean, put yourself at the discretion of those who knew. That's what I say.


TSARNI: Pardon me? Not yet. Not yet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you give us your name again?

TSARNI: My -- there was -- the last time I spoke with them. That was about three months ago maybe.


TSARNI: No, no, no.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where were they born, (inaudible)?

TSARNI: They came here from Kyrgyzstan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where were they born?

TSARNI: In Kyrgyzstan.


TSARNI: Pardon me? I don't say losers. I'm saying those who are able to make this atrocity are only losers. That's what I say. There's no idea that they may follow. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you consider them terrorists?

TSARNI: I work. I am legal.

Thank you very much.


BLITZER: ... of these two suspects, one of whom was killed, the 26- year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

The younger suspect, 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, he is on the loose. He is at large right now.

People are wondering. His brother is the father of these two suspects. He must have shortened his name from Tsarnaev to Tsarni. I'm just assuming that's what happened.

But he's insisting these two brothers, if in fact they did commit these crimes, these bombings at the Boston marathon, have brought shame, shame to the family, shame to all the people of Chechnya, shame to Muslims. CUOMO: He's also saying his nephew, the suspect, should turn himself in, ask for forgiveness. He says they're a disgrace to the family, as you said.

Now I misheard the first time I was listening to this. He says he spoke to his brother, the suspect's father, three months ago, but he hasn't spoken to the boys in quite some time.

So he doesn't understand how this happened, but he believes they must have been recently radicalized, he said.

BLITZER: And he blamed people here in the United States, presumably, for radicalizing him. That's the impression I got from what he had to say in his passionate remarks.

CUOMO: And whatever the motivation was, we are learning more about the Twitter account and all the social media access that these men had here in the States.

And there are references to extremist movements and pictures of him in extremist settings that friends commented on and now are becoming much more contextual of what he became.

BLITZER: I think Christine Romans has been monitoring those Twitter accounts. I take it that the 19-year-old, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Christine, was pretty active on Twitter, and in fact, has been tweeting as recently as this week since the Boston marathon bombings?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: You know, Wolf, there's been a dozen tweets since the bombing.

We have confirmed that the personal Twitter account of him. He has -- he goes by the handle of an Americanized version of his name, Dzhokhar.

We have spoken to two of his friends, one from high school, one from college who both follow him and he follows them back. We have confirmed this is, in fact, his Twitter handle.

Let me read something he wrote on the night of the bombings. He said, "Ain't no love in the heart of the city, stay safe people." It's a song lyric from the '70s. It's also been covered by Jay-Z and others. And, again, this is a tweet on his personal Twitter account.

Later that night, he goes on to say -- he's talking to one of his Twitter friends and says -- and they -- and we presume he means "say" -- and they say, "What God hates dead people or victims of tragedies? LOL. Those people are cooked."

Also on his Twitter account, Wednesday, Wednesday, "I'm a stress-free kind of guy."

And then there's this, the picture that's a bit older, but it's something his friends tell us he was wearing shorts there that say "Cambridge Wrestling." His friends say that he was on the Cambridge wrestling team -- wrestling squad -- working hard, #clearly. His friends say they presume that is a self-portrait of his.

Couple of things here, also on his Twitter page, he goes by an Americanized version of his name, Dzhokhar. On the cover of it, there is a lion or a tiger and then in Arabic, "Peace with be you." That's, of course, the traditional Muslim greeting.

When you go through it, there's some links to Russian rap. There's some other links to rap, some references to kind of slang and the like, but mostly 1,100 tweets there looks like, you know, a 19-year- old kid with kind of some diverse interests.

But what's really chilling about it, you guys, what's so chilling, a dozen tweets since the night of the bombing, one of them referencing Claritin, one of them talking to another friend. There's a tweet in there also about the movie "Finding Nemo" from a couple of weeks. So very odd to look at this in hindsight and see the words, presumably, it is his twitter account of this young man even since the bombing, gentlemen.

Let me go to Deborah Feyerick now, I know you're covering this story as well and have been there since the very early hours of the morning.

Deb, tell us the latest on the investigation as what is, quite frankly, a siege in Boston as they try to track down this 19-year-old terrorism suspect, Deb.

FEYERICK: Yeah, it really is. And something very interesting happened within the last 10 minutes.

We saw two Blackhawk helicopters, one of them appeared to almost touch down. It disappeared. It went below the shored buildings, seemed to touch down and then come back off the ground. And that happened two times.

Now what we're seeing is they've opened up the street, the street that's been closed now for about 40 minutes. That is now being opened. So we understand that they did go in, they did search another home, a second home.

They searched one early this morning. Forensic teams are in that home right now. They searched another one just a short time ago.

Then the Blackhawk helicopters came in, and it was amazing because they really -- it seems as they touched down, they disappeared behind the buildings very, very low and then they flew off again.

But now this main avenue here is opening up. And so it looks like this area is going to be cleared after a little while.

We don't really know what is going on. All we can tell you is that at least two homes have been searched. One individual was surrounded and he is with investigators now.

Hold on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. No, time-out. We're going to go one at a time. You can back up and hang tight, I'll be there to walk you to your car. One at a time.

FEYERICK: OK. Just so you know -- and we really have to tell you, the police here have been extraordinary. They've got a job to do. We've got a job to do. And everybody's sort of listening to one another, and really playing nicely.

Nobody wants to get hurt, especially with what's going on right now. You can see we're now being told that we can move back up to where we were, that first location, so the hot spot now cooled down, Erin.

ROMANS: All right. Thanks, Deb. I'll take it from here.

Let's talk to Chris Lawrence next. He's at U Mass Dartmouth

And, Chris, earlier this morning, we were getting more information about the younger of the two terrorism suspects, that he was a college student, that he worked at Harvard at one of the pools, that he was a student at U Mass.

You're there on the phone for us at U Mass Dartmouth. Tell us what we know about this suspect.

LAWRENCE: Yeah, Erin. I just literally within the last couple of minutes spoke with a young man who lived three doors down -- says he lived three doors down on the same floor of the same dorm where the suspect lived.

He said he was sort of blown away. He said something to the effect of, I just can't believe that someone who could have put our lives in danger would live that close.

And his friend said, who also lived down the hall, told us he was the last person you would ever think would be capable.

And I've got to tell you, just from talking to the students here who knew him, there's a lot of surprise here, and no one has a bad word to say about this man.

We spoke with a young woman who had a philosophy class with him. She said the most I really talked with him was when we got an assignment about voluntary armies.

And she took the position of being against the draft. He was for the draft. And he had this intense debate in philosophy class. She said, other than that, he didn't say too much.

I talked to another young man who also lived in the dorm who basically said, you know, he would joke around, never heard any politically motivated statements from him., no overt political leanings that they were aware of.

And earlier, again, just within the last hour, we've spoken with someone who went to high school with him who is also a student here who said he remembered him as a wrestler, someone who may have taken some advanced placement classes in high school.

And again, just the same refrain over and over, we're shocked, we can't believe it. There wasn't any indication.

ROMANS: You know, and, Chris, I've been going over his twitter account, the two friends, a friend from high school and a friend from college, have confirmed is indeed his, and one of the things that's sort of interesting about the activity there, you know, the pop culture references, the slang references, but also now people have been re-tweeting this, talking to Dzhokhar.

And friends from high school and college are on there, saying, dude, turn yourself in, stop this now. A lot of people who are in disbelief, they're horrified, and then they're talking to each other and trying to encourage him to come in.

One of the things that his high school friends have been saying earlier, as well, is that they didn't know he had an older brother, didn't really talk about his family all that much, but that he was really a typical American in Boston.

He was a typical, immigrant American student. They fit in completely and didn't really talk about politics.

Is that what his friends from college are saying as well?

LAWRENCE: Yeah, I think you hit the nail on the head. They're all saying -- I asked about his voice, what did he sound like?

They said, well, you could tell he had an accent. He told people, I guess a couple people here, that he was from Russia, but as one of the students said, this is a fairly, you know, multicultural area, so that was no big deal.

And he never really got into it very much, that -- and it's funny you mention the pop culture references, because they would say -- I would say, have you ever heard him say anything that sort of jumped out at you?

And he said, well, he would make jokes, but they weren't political jokes. They -- he said the same thing. They were sort of pop culture jokes about music or actors, things like that that a lot of college students talk about.

And so I think that the image, or at least the public image that I think is forming or that we're picking up here, is that this was a fairly typical college kid if there is a such thing.

ROMANS: Yeah, all right, Chris Lawrence at U Mass Dartmouth. Thanks for that, Chris. And keep asking his friends and talking to more of them. I know so many of them are in disbelief.

Wolf, as we go through his Twitter account, as we talk to his high school friends and his college friends, we talk to his manager at the pool at Harvard where he had a job, you know, everyone, I can say, again and again, we just keep hearing disbelief, Wolf.

People can't believe -- many didn't know he had a brother and they can't believe this is the suspect. And as I said, they're on his Twitter page now. He has tweeted since the bombings 12 tweets or re-tweets, Wolf. They're on his Twitter page now saying please turn yourself in.


BLITZER: Christine, hold on for a moment.

I want to go to Deb Feyerick. It looks like they're getting ready -- Chris Cuomo is here as well -- it looks like they're getting ready for a little news conference over there with an update on what's going on.

Maybe Deborah Feyerick has some more information. What are you picking up, Deb?

FEYERICK: Wolf, right now we can tell you that it looks like a young man is being arrested. This does not -- it's not clear. This is definitely not the suspect.