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Investigators Up Against Weather, Sheer Volume of Evidence at Boston Crime Site

April 16, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT
In Boston, evidence seemed to suggest that the explosive devices were made from pressure cookers filled with shrapnel. Jeffrey Brown talks to WBUR reporter David Boeri about what else police and federal agents have discovered, as well as what challenges they face in trying to piece together

JEFFREY BROWN: This afternoon, the White House confirmed the president will attend a memorial for the victims in Boston on Thursday.

And joining us from Boston now is David Boeri, senior reporter for WBUR Public Radio.

David, what, if anything, can you add to where the investigation stands now? What leads might be being followed?

DAVID BOERI, WBUR Public Radio: We have a 12-acre crime scene here, so they’re still poring through that scene.

There’s going to be problems tonight because we’re expecting rain, and it is windy as well, so some of those fragments are moving and blowing out. But they are working this scene as intensively, they say, as they have worked any crime scene.

Meanwhile, they’re exploring their theories. We had a visit last night to an apartment in Revere. It’s because one of the people that was hospitalized yesterday had injuries on his hands, burns on his hands that were considered inconsistent with the other injuries of other people, so they followed him. He was a Saudi national. He was in the hospital.

They went to his residence in Revere and found two other Saudi nationals. It turns out — and they had visa problems, so Immigration and Customs Enforcement took them into custody. But it seems as if this is a — this is not where the investigation is going.

But you get a sense that, in fact, they’re casting a wide net looking for people. Evidence has a shelf life, and so that saves them from spending more time by dealing with those quickly and moving on. That’s past us, but they’re looking for more.

JEFFREY BROWN: And what about the reports that the bombs were composed of pressure cookers?

DAVID BOERI: Yes. Pretty clearly, they are pressure cookers, a gallon-and-a-half pressure cookers.

Now, pressure cookers make both rice and, as it turns out, devastating bombs. You can see recipes for them on jihadi websites and on anarchist websites that call them hellhounds. It’s a popular explosive device.

What seems to have happened here, by putting it in the duffel bag and the duffel bag being put on the ground, according to sources that we have talked to, it made the devastation less than it might have been. It blew outwards. Most of the injuries on the legs were from the knee downward. It could have been much worse had it been in a tight container, I’m told.

JEFFREY BROWN: We saw, David, that the law enforcement is asking the public for help in the form of videos, photos, anything. Do you have any sense yet of what kind of response they’re getting?

DAVID BOERI: They’re getting a great response.

There are hundreds and thousands of pictures and videos that were taken. You know, the social media since 9/11 has expanded. Everybody has phones and cameras now. And so this is going to take an enormous amount of work if they’re trying to go through these. This could be very complicated.

Some people suggest it indicates that they don’t have a lot of leads otherwise. But, certainly, that’s one thing that they’re looking for.

JEFFREY BROWN: Speaking of 9/11, I wonder — just tell — give us a sense of the mood there today, and maybe you can compare it to what happened after 9/11.

DAVID BOERI: Absolutely.

I remember it well. I remember 9/12. And 9/12 was a day much like today, brilliant sky, warm. On 2000 — in 2001, on 9/11, Boston was a crime scene that had no evidence. There were no victims here, and so it had been robbed in that sense — today, just the opposite, a terrible number of victims and a lot of devastation at that scene.

JEFFREY BROWN: And we said the president is coming Thursday. What else? Are you expecting other services and memorials in the coming days?

DAVID BOERI: Yes, there are going to be lots of — well, right now, we have three dead as — that’s the latest. There’s going to be just an outpouring in this city.

This is — to understand just the impact here, you have got to remember, I mean, this is the celebration of Patriots’ Day. It’s a longtime New England ritual. And, of course, it’s one of the premier, some call it the premier running event. And the fact that a running event, the premier running event had this devastation that resulted in many people’s legs being blown off is sadder and ironic more.

JEFFREY BROWN: David Boeri of WBUR Boston, thanks so much.

DAVID BOERI: You’re welcome.