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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Boston Bombing Suspects Identified, Interview with Eric Machado, Friend of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

Aired April 19, 2013 - 08:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


GOV. DEVAL PATRICK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: We have an MIT security officer who has been killed. There is a massive manhunt -- there is a massive manhunt under way, a lot of law enforcement involved in that. To assist that, we have suspended all service on the MBTA, our public transit service. And that will continue until we think it's safe to open all or some of that.

We are asking people to shelter in place. In other words, to stay indoors with their doors locked and not to open the door for anyone other than a properly identified law enforcement officer. And that applies here in Watertown, where we are right now. Also, Cambridge, Waltham, Newton, Belmont and at this point, all of Boston. All of Boston.

This is a -- this is a serious situation. We're taking it seriously. We are asking the public to take it seriously as well, and to assist law enforcement by following those simple instructions.

We've got every asset we can possibly muster on the ground right now. They are doing a terrific job, working in concert with each other. But we are going to need the public help us help them to stay safe.

(INAUDIBLE) you, Commissioner?

ED DAVIS, BOSTON POLICE COMMISSIONER : Thank you, Governor.

As the governor said, this is a rapidly developing situation. In the last half hour, we received information that I have communicated to Mayor Menino. Mayor Menino asked me to come here, and tell you that the shelter in place recommendation has been extended throughout the city of Boston.

There is a lot of information coming in. But we are working very closely with federal authorities in Washington. We are examining all databases. All potential leads and officers moving around the city right now.

Please be patient with us. Work with us. If you see anything suspicious, let us know. We are trying to make this safe as quickly as possible.

But this is an ongoing situation. I want to stress that. This is an ongoing situation.

COL. TIMOTHY ALBEN, MASSACHUSETTS STATE POLICE: Colonel Timothy Alben. First, I want to say thank you to each and every one of you. You got the message out to the neighborhood. I have to ask to you continue to do that.

Our number one priority right now is with the neighborhoods here in Watertown and making them safe and finding this individual. That's what we're committed to, we need more time, we're making significant progress up there. But it may take hours to do this.

So please bear with us. I know that there is a lot of questions and we'll have plenty of time to address those after this. For right now, this is about public safety. This is about Watertown neighborhood.

So please give us that leeway. We'll be back shortly. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: You were just watching leave press conference in Watertown, Massachusetts, which was ground zero of a massive manhunt for one of the suspects in the Boston marathon terrorist attacks on Monday.

We just heard from Tim Alben. He's the head of Massachusetts State Police. Before him was Boston Police Chief Ed Davis. And before him, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick.

John and Juliette, we have been covering this all night. We've been covering this all night. It started out just Watertown.

Then, a few hours later, they expanded and they said anyone in Watertown, or the surrounding areas -- Waltham, Cambridge -- do not leave your house. Stay in your house. Do not open the door unless you see a clearly identified police officer.

And there we heard Governor Patrick, he expanded it even more, the entire city in Boston. The entire city of Boston, that residents are being asked to stay in your homes, do not open the door, unless you see a clearly identified police officer. A remarkable turn of events.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I mean, Tom Fuentes is with us right now, former assistant director of the FBI.

Tom, have you ever seen anything like this? An entire city, major metropolitan area, everyone being told to simply stay home?

Tom is not with us right now.

Juliette, let me ask you. You are from Boston right now. This is affecting you and your family.

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN ANALYST: Yes, they are.

BERMAN: But also, but again, this entire area, people being told to stay to home.

KAYYEM: Yes, it's unprecedented. But this is being done in the utmost caution. This is to keep people off the streets and relieve the public safety officials do the one thing that we want them to do, which is, of course, to find the second suspect. So, it is disconcerting. It's disconcerting for people who are from Boston, but it's being done with the utmost caution. And it's probably, I have to say, unprecedented in modern history.

BERMAN: All right. There is a lot going on, we're getting a lot more information right now about the two suspects. One dead, one alive.

This information is coming to us from Deborah Feyerick right now who joins us from Watertown.

Deborah, what's the latest?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Just to update you, a reset of sort of what we were saying. They are two brothers, these two men, the two suspected marathon bombers, two brothers believed to be 26 and 19 years old. We have their names. We're not going to be releasing them right now.

We are being told by a source that they fled the Russian caucus of Chechnya several years ago during the conflict and then they went to Kazakhstan, and that's where they were staying before they came to Boston. They are Muslim.

The older brother, the one who is one killed, the one in the black hat, who did not drink, did not smoke. He went to Bunker Hill Community College. He wanted to become an engineer but then we are told that he took a year off, into boxing and also martial arts. So he is the one who was killed.

The big concern is when he was killed, he seemed to have explosives on him. Big concern, of course, is whether he was killed by a law enforcement officer during the chase, during the car chase that took place last night or whether he had an explosive on him that detonated. Whether he self-detonated himself. He was with his brother.

They were tight, they were traveling together, they had stayed hidden for about three days together underground. Nobody apparently seeing them or knowing who they were if they did see them until photographs were released.

The white hat, the 19-year-old, he is now on the run, as we all know.

But, again, a lot of information developing very quickly. We understand that there may be a Web site, there may have been a Web site in a Russian language. We are looking into that right now.

But we do know that the older brother, who has been here a number of years, posted on the Web site, his own Web site, I don't have a single American friend. I just don't understand them.

So, all of this --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. We'll update later. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We just wanted to let you guys know a couple of things. There are port-a-potties and we're bringing in water.

TAPPER: We missed that. We'll find out what they said.

Deb, please resume what you were saying.

FEYERICK: Sorry --

TAPPER: Deb Feyerick, are you there?

FEYERICK: Yes, I'm here. Can you hear me? Jake?

TAPPER: Yes, go ahead. I apologize for interrupting.

FEYERICK: No worries. No worries.

TAPPER: Deb Feyerick, can you hear me?

FEYERICK: Jake, can you hear me?

TAPPER: Yes, please proceed. I apologize.

FEYERICK: OK. Sorry. Not at all.

So the two brothers are traveling together, of course, right now the very big fear is that younger one may be desperate. He's been up since about midnight. He's on the run.

You can see he's so outmanned right now. There are thousands of law enforcement personnel on the ground. They do believe that he is in this area. They've been bringing people in.

We have seen troops, National Guard, who are coming in, whether to secure the perimeter, but all of them very heavily armed.

So, we're learning a little more about who these two brothers were. One thing that law enforcement is telling us, as a terror source is telling us, and that is -- look, we cannot make the leap and say these two young men were radicalized in Chechnya. That's a big fear, that raises it to a whole new level.

What they are looking whether they were radicalized here in the United States. That's the bigger question. And how -- if they were, why? So, all of that is under investigation.

But just because they were from the Russian caucus of Chechnya doesn't necessarily mean that's where the whole thing started. It may have simply started when they came in here, try to fit in to Boston, and for whatever reason, whether they did or they did not or why they wanted to do this, why they were thinking of dog doing this, that's the big unknown. There's simply no known motive, at least none that we know of -- Jake.

BERMAN: One of the thing our security analysts are pointing out, the fact he was enrolled in a university could be a treasure trove of data points to investigate how he was living, what he was studying, what he was doing while he was here. Investigators are no doubt looking into that at this very moment. As they continue this manhunt which is under way in Watertown and the surrounding areas.

Let's go to Don Lemon right now who is on the ground in Watertown.

Don, what's happening where you are?

DON LEMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Just as you guys were talking to Deb, earlier we saw three buses of police officers. Seven buses I counted of police officers on Boston public transportation buses going into Watertown, into this 20-block area that they have basically essentially blocked off. Really the entire town of Watertown is on lockdown.

Also, we have seen the National Guard coming in to Watertown as well to look, police officers door to door. I imagine they will be part of that as well, to lockdown the particular town of Watertown, and also, to go door to door.

As we have been reporting all morning. People have been told to stay in place. To be locked in place here. Do not let anyone in your home unless you know it is a police officer, unless you know it is a member of the armed services. You have to look for identification and check identification.

And speaking to police officers here as they tell to us be careful, because this suspect, they don't know what kind of ammunition he has, what kind of weapon he has. They know that he has long rifles and they said those long rifles can go far and this person they believe is in the area and he feels like a trapped animal. And if he comes out, they don't know if he's going to want to go out in a hail of gunfire.

So, they are telling the media, only people allowed on the streets to be particularly careful and to be particularly safe. But, again, seven more buses of police officers going into Watertown and just a little bit earlier, we saw a bomb disposal device as well, a truck with a huge ground of circular ball on the back where they put whatever device it is inside and detonate it. We saw that go in here as well.

So, again, unprecedented. I have been doing this 20-some years and never seen anything like this, an entire town and now the entire city of Boston on shelter in place. It's unbelievable, John and Jake.

BERMAN: Don Lemon, our thanks to you in Watertown.

We have seen buses filled with police officers driving behind us all morning. It really is an extraordinary site. Thanks so much, Don.

TAPPER: And one of the things we've also been hearing about. We've heard at least one or two of these, these controlled detonations, controlled explosions, because these two brothers, one now dead, one on the loose, used explosives however expertly, there are a lot of fears of explosives being scattered throughout the city.

So, we've heard of one or two controlled detonations by police, finding packages, suspicious packages that they didn't know what they were, getting rid of them, per the bomb disposal unit. We know brothers according to police were using explosives last night. We're told by law enforcement officer that the brother, suspect number one, who now dead, is thought to have had explosives on his person in some way every a suicide bomb, holding explosives. We don't know as of now.

But it's thought that he had it on him, which is one of the reasons why suspect number two is thought to be so deadly because nobody knows what kind of ordnance he has on him, whether it's a gun or some type of explosive.

I want to -- we're going to go to find more about Chechnya in a minute. But before we do that, one of the facts before Deborah Feyerick's great reporting.

Well, actually, we're going to report the name of the dead brother right now. So, let me just say several sources tell CNN the dead suspect identified as Tamerlan Tsarnaev, I might be pronouncing that, of course, Tamerlan Tsarnaev. He's age 26. The one being sought is Dzhokhar Tsarnaev age 19. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. It is -- in all probably, I am botching the pronunciation of those names.

But one of the things we know, these procedure brothers are from Chechnya. Now, that doesn't mean they were radicalized in Chechnya at all. It could be they came here, self-radicalized. All that is, is their ethnicity.

BERMAN: Let's go to Phil Black who is in Moscow right now.

Phil, what can you tell us about the situation in Chechnya, Russian/Chechen relations? Relations between the Chechnya and the United States? What's the overall situation?

PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The situation in Chechnya at the moment is actually reasonably stable. But Chechnya itself and the region around it has effectively been the source of an Islamist insurgency in this country for something close to 20 years now. Russia has fought two brutal wars in Chechnya to put down an Islamist separatist movement which it has effectively done.

But ever since putting an end to separatist ambitions from these people who wanted to establish their own Islamic Chechen state, break away from Russia, Russia crushed that movement, but there is an ongoing insurgency with Chechen fighters, Dagestani fighters from another neighboring the region, also (INAUDIBLE) as well, within this region, there have been Islamist insurgents and terrorists, who over the last 10 years or so have been regularly been staging attacks, brutal, effective attacks in Moscow and other parts of Russia as well.

The most recent was here in Moscow, at one of its main airport, at Domodedovo in January 2011, where a bombing there killed more than 30 people. And throughout the 2000s, there have been regular attacks, some of them truly spectacular. In 2002, there was a siege here in a Moscow theater where 800 people or so taken hostage for a number of days and in the end, more than 100 people killed as Russian security forces stormed that theater and put an end to that. So, there is a history of Russia dealing with this terrorist threat. It's why Russia takes internal security very, very seriously. And within those regions surrounding Chechnya now there, is still very much an ongoing conflict with Russian soldiers, Russian security services, Russian police regularly fighting and often dying in armed battles with insurgents who continue to pose a threat to the security of this country.

BERMAN: All right, Phil Blanc in Moscow, thank you so much.

TAPPER: And we should underline that we still -- even though these brothers -- one of them now dead -- and we've -- we've given their names, one of them on the loose -- even though they are from Chechnya originally, we have no idea their motivations as of now.

We can suspect their motivations, but we do not know them. We do not know that they have anything to do with Chechnya, we do not know that they have anything to do with their religion. We just know who they are, one is dead, and the other's on the loose.

One other fact before we go to Joe Johns covering Law Enforcement -- law and justice for us -- is Bunker Hill Community College, this is one of the things do we know for sure about these brothers is that the one who was killed, the older brother, who was 26 years old, he attended Bunker Hill Community College. He was studying engineering.

I'm not from here. You guys are. All I know is about Bunker Hill Community College, that's where Robin Williams taught in Good Will Hunting. So explain to me exactly what Bunker Hill Community College is.

BERMAN: A lot of people drive by it on 93 coming into the city. It's a familiar sight for a lot of people, not necessarily if you're out of town, you don't know about it. There are a lot of prestigious universities here, but a lot of them very expensive. So if you are from around here, locally, it is a very good place to get an education for a lot less money. I think it's safe to say that.

KAYYEM: Right, yeah and Jake, I think it's so important to reiterate what you are just saying that, we know so little about them and their motivation and what they are connected to some international historical debate between Chechnya and Russia.

People do really bad things for all sorts of reasons, what their religion is, or where they're from doesn't necessarily -- it's not necessarily tied to that. It's gonna be -- there's gonna be a lot of things unearthed about these two. They clearly together planned something very horrible. But whether that goes much further, we just need -- we really don't' know and whether it's tied to where they're from or their religion that's now just guessing.

TAPPER: We do know whoever carried out these attacks, they're sociopaths. I mean, they're horrible, horrible people. And their actions were completely evil.

BERMAN: And terrorists.

TAPPER: And they're terrorists.

Beyond that, we don't know. I want to go to Joe Johns in our Washington, D.C. Bureau, that's where he's gonna talk to us about the latest in the law enforcement, he's out crime and justice correspondent.

Joe, what have you learned?

JOHNS: In sort of keeping with that theme, we have determined a little more information from our law enforcement source about the level of desperation and even chaos in the overnight scene there in that area.

One law enforcement official telling me that these fellows may have been brothers, but they car jacked a car, and there was a fire fight as we know and according to this law enforcement source, one brother actually drove over or hit the other brother with this car they car jacked after the fire fight occurred. One brother runs over the other brother with a car in making his escape, and about that car, I'd also been told earlier this morning by a law enforcement authority that officials say these two brothers, when they car jacked this car, they told the driver of that car that they were, in fact, the marathon bombers.

So it gives you a little bit of a feel for the kind of chaos and desperation and craziness that has brought to us the point we're at now.

Back to you.

BERMAN: Joe Johns, what details there, that one brother somehow in the chaos of the moment actually drove over or hit the other brother in the chaos of this car chase. And again, that other amazing detail, the brothers identified themselves to the man -- to the car jacked car that they car jacked the driver, they identified themselves as the marathon bombers, extraordinary.

TAPPER: One big bit of news here -- a development, we know that public transportation in Boston suspended. We know that people in and around Boston being told by the governor and law enforcement to stay in their homes. As if to reiterate the point, all the schools are closed. All the universities closed. People told not to send -- not to open their businesses. And now we've been told that taxi cab service in Boston, taxi cab service has been suspended as well. As if there was any doubt that the city is on lock down. Now cabs are also off-limits.

BERMAN: Boston is closed for business this morning, as this investigation continues.

I want to go to Barbara Starr, who's just joining us right now. I want a sense of what the intelligence community is saying about the overnight and early morning developments.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well good morning.

You know, we want to start where you have been all morning long. Although it is believed these two suspects came from an area near Chechnya, the break-away republic in Russia. No one is saying that they are politically motivated by their Chechen origins at this point.

We simply don't know that. We do not know what motivated them, but the intelligence community is looking at this very carefully trying to figure it all out and see if there are things that they do need to know.

Was it politically motivated bit history of Chechnya with Russia?

Also, there are a number of Chechen fighters over the years, that have been affiliated with Al Qaida, fighting throughout the war on terror in Afghanistan, in Iraq, and now there are said to be many Chechen fighters in Syria.

Again, we don't known that's related to this. But it is something that they are looking at, because the whole history of the dissident, the militant movement in Chechnya is something that U.S. intelligence community follows very, very carefully. They will want to know, these two men, relatively young, were they sympathizers, were they of that Ideology? Was it totally unrelated to any of that.

No answers, yet. But these are the threats that they're starting to looking at. And it's very interesting, because up until late yesterday, all of the sources we were talking to said they couldn't find any evidence of an international link. They weren't ruling it out, but they simply had no evidence, there had been no chatter, no discussion, no phone intercepts, no internet postings that they knew of. Now looking at the social media pages of these suspects, going back, looking at everything one more time.

TAPPER: Barbara Starr, we're gonna go now to Eric Machado who apparently knew or knows the younger brother, the one still being sought. And I'm gonna mispronounce his name, but it's -- I believe it's Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. He's on the loose. His older brother, who's 26, Tamerlan Tsarnaev has been killed in a fire fight with police officers. I'm probably mispronouncing his name, but please tell us your story.

What -- what is -- how do you know him, and -- and tell us more about him, anything you know about him.

ERIC MACHADO, FRIEND OF DZOKHAR TSARNAEV: Well I went to high school with Dzhokhar. I knew him as Dzhokhar. He graduated in the class below me. He was good friends with a bunch of us (ph). I know that he worked at Harvard University as a - as a lifeguard. Just recently, so I don't know if -- what's the deal there.

We -- we -- you know, we hung out. We partied, we -- you know, good high school friends, and a bunch -- all of my high school -- everybody, we're all -- we're all like in shock. We don't really understand, like -- I mean, there is no telltale signs of any kind of malicious behavior from Dzhokhar. It's all coming as a shock really.

BERMAN: What town did he live in? Can you tell us about his family? Anything you may know about his life.

MACHADO: Well, we -- I live on Columbia Street which is just a street over from Norfolk street, so, I mean, he lived literally maybe a block away from me.

I mean, as far as I know, I didn't know his close personal family, but I mean, I knew Dzhokhar, and he didn't show any malicious sign, no evidence that would lead any of to us really believe he would be capable of something like this.

TAPPER: Did you know his older brother. One that was killed in a fire fight with police officers?

MACHADO: I did not know his older brother. I didn't even really know he had an older brother to be honest.

TAPPER: What else can you tell us about Dzhokhar? He was 19 years old. Did he graduate from high school? Did he have a job?

(CROSSTALK)

MACHADO: He went to Amherst -- University of Amherst, UMASS. I believe he is on break. He was on break at this point. Given April vacation. yes, he worked at Harvard University I believe as a lifeguard I've been told from a friend of mine who is also a lifeguard.

It's just really blowing -- social media everybody is kind of in shock that he would do this. I know that from the photos that the FBI had released, the way he wore his hat, that's the telltale sign of Dzhokhar something, he would normally do, is wear his hat backward.

Once I saw the photos I kind of had an idea it was him, but you never really want -- I didn't want to throw somebody I knew personally under the bus and assume it was him. You know, it was more of a joke, oh, yes, that looks like Dzhokhar. Clearly it was not a joke and should have been taken a little more seriously on my part and probably some of my friends as well. Not something you'd ever forget. But kind of a shock.

TAPPER: Is there anything that you know from Dzhokhar's background, any -- any sort of trauma, any sort of horrific event in his life that you know that might have led him to this horrible, horrible world?

MACHADO: No, not that I can -- not that I can really point out. I know a friend of mine has -- we've been in contact this morning, and he had told me that there was a conversation that him and another close friend of mine had, had just recently, maybe six months to a year ago, in regard to terrorism -- the act of terror, not being -- not being a serious issue if you come from a place that I come from.

And I -- those comments kind of -- they obviously, a red flag in my head, OK, if he's willing to say something like that, and, you know, the events happened recently would warrant something like -- it would warrant -- it doesn't really make sense and I don't want to put -- but, I mean, it's a lot, man.

We all went to high school with him. And he would say hi to a kid, and just a normal kid and to think that, you know, he's capable of something like this is beyond belief.

BERMAN: It's got to be very difficult. We're on the phone with Eric Machado right now who was a high school schoolmate at Cambridge Ringe (ph) and Latin with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the younger of the...

TAPPER: Dzhokhar, I believe it is pronounced.

BERMAN: Dzhokhar, right is that...

MACHADO: As far as I know, that was his name. I mean, we addressed him as Dzhokhar. I can understand where the nickname comes from.

BERMAN: Did he ever discuss his background to you? Where he was born, where he grew up before he moved here?

MACHADO: No. That never really came up. I mean, I came -- Cambridge Latin, one of our slogans, my class implemented is diversity. We come from a very diverse school. So I mean every -- we have people from all walks of life. I mean, all parts of Asia to parts of Africa, Ethiopia, Eritrea, I mean all over. I mean there are kids that represent every nation in this country, and so you never want to someone comes from a malicious background or something like that. I wouldn't say that he ever spoke about anything that serious, you know.

TAPPER: Eric this must be a profoundly bewildering and horrifying turn of events for you. I have to say Dzhokhar is still a fugitive. He is out there. We have no idea if he is watching us right now. If he is watching us right now, what do you, as a friend of his, want to say to him?

MACHADO: Man, Dzhokhar, I just hope that whoever -- I mean, I hope -- I hope that whoever kind of led him in this direction, I don't believe it was his own thinking, you know, he was clearly pressured into this. Man, just don't do anything stupid. Turn yourself in if you are still out there. It's not really worth it at this point. They are scouring everywhere.

I mean, I really just -- I hope he takes into consideration the families that were hurt by this and really considers his actions at this point. I mean, it's just terrible to see the tragedy that everybody has been faced with in the last couple of days, and kind of the emotion that the whole nation is kind of under. The scared emotion that everybody is -- Army -- everybody walking around. And not something that people want us to feel in their every day lives. People want to be able to carry on and do certain things and things like this only bring fear into people's lives. It's terrible.

BERMAN: It's got to be terrible for you, Eric. You or any of your friends had any contact with him over the last several months? Anyone who can identify where he has been or what he has been doing?

MACHADO: Me, no, personally I have not had contact with him. But I -- I know -- I know that he's -- you know, he was currently employed at Harvard, so I would look to maybe to staff over there. Somebody who is, you know, a coworker maybe.

I can't say that any of my friends, my circle of friends have been in close contact with him. I know a couple of people are followers of his on Twitter. And vice versa. But as far as, you know, face-to- face contact, I can't say for sure.