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Obama: Anyone Responsible for Boston Bombs Will Feel ‘Full Weight of Justice’

April 15, 2013 at 12:00 AM EST
After the explosions, President Barack Obama spoke at the White House about the events in Boston, the spirit of its citizens and the state holiday Patriots' Day. Stephen Murphy of the Boston City Council offers an eyewitness account to Gwen Ifill, including seeing the fireball blast and the team effort shown by first-responders.
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JEFFREY BROWN: And now back to the Boston bombing story.

President Obama went to White House Briefing Room this evening to make a statement on developments.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Good afternoon, everybody.

Earlier today, I was briefed by my homeland security team on the events in Boston. We’re continuing to monitor and respond to the situation as it unfolds. And I have directed the full resources of the federal government to help state and local authorities protect our people, increase security around the United States as necessary, and investigate what happened.

The American people will say a prayer for Boston tonight, and Michelle and I send our deepest thoughts and prayers to families of the victims in the wake of this senseless loss.

We don’t yet have all the answers. But we do know that multiple people have been wounded, some gravely, in explosions at the Boston Marathon. I have spoken to FBI Director Mueller and Secretary of Homeland Security Napolitano. And they’re mobilizing the appropriate resources to investigate and to respond.

I have updated leaders of Congress in both parties, and we reaffirm that on days like this there are no Republicans or Democrats. We are Americans, united in concern for our fellow citizens.

I have also spoken with Gov. Patrick and Mayor Menino and made it clear that they have every single federal resource necessary to care for the victims and counsel the families. And, above all, I made clear to them that all Americans stand with the people of Boston.

Boston police, firefighters, and first-responders as well as the National Guard responded heroically and continue to do so as we speak. It’s a reminder that so many Americans serve and sacrifice on our behalf every single day without regard to their own safety in dangerous and difficult circumstances. And we salute all those who assisted in responding so quickly and professionally to this tragedy.

We still do not know who did this or why. And people shouldn’t jump to conclusions before we have all the facts. But make no mistake. We will get to the bottom of this. And we will find out who did this. We will find out why they did this.

Any responsible — any responsible individuals, any responsible groups will feel the full weight of justice. Today is a holiday in Massachusetts. Patriots’ Day. It’s a day that celebrates the free and fiercely independent spirit that this great American city of Boston has reflected from the earliest days of our nation. And it’s a day that draws the world to Boston streets in a spirit of friendly competition.

Boston is a tough and resilient town. So are its people. I’m supremely confident that Bostonians will pull together, take care of each other and move forward as one proud city. And, as they do, the American people will be with them every single step of the way.

You should anticipate that, as we get more information, our teams will provide you briefings. We’re still in the investigation stage at this point, but I just want to reiterate we will find out who did this and we will hold them accountable.

Thank you very much.

GWEN IFILL: President Obama in the White House Briefing Room a short time ago.

Now we get another eyewitness account from the president of the Boston City Council. Stephen Murphy was near the finish line this afternoon. And he joins us now on the phone.

Councilman Murphy, tell me — Councillor Murphy, tell me what you saw.

COUNCILLOR STEPHEN MURPHY, Boston City Council: Well, I was about 30 feet from the corner of Boylston and Exeter streets when a loud explosion went off. It was almost like a mushroom cloud went up into the air.

And people started running and screaming. And it was very quick — quickly that the Boston police, Boston EMS, and Boston fire, as well as volunteers from the Boston Athletic Association, the BAA, that runs the race, moved right in and cleared the area and began to restore order right away.

So, it was a very good team effort on behalf of those who were representing officials of the city, the official police, fire and ambulance, and also the BAA volunteers, the race volunteers. They worked swiftly to move in to the area and to bring — Boston EMS brought their ambulance folks over and to try to take care of injured and sick.

And they moved very, very quickly. So, I was proud as a Bostonian to watch our emergency services people work so well.

GWEN IFILL: Councillor Murphy, when that first blast went off, did you immediately think it was a bomb or did you think perhaps it was a pothole cover or a manhole cover exploding?

STEPHEN MURPHY: That’s what I thought; it was a manhole cover. We have had a few of those, usually in colder weather than this.

The first time, I thought it was a manhole cover, but the size of the cloud and the fireball gave us pause. And then another one happened maybe 15, 20 seconds later probably 100 yards further down Boylston Street. And that’s when everybody knew that it was something more than just a random incident. So people were evacuated from the area quickly. And medical people were responding just as quickly to those that were injured and hurt.

GWEN IFILL: As president of the Boston City Council, have you been informed of what that — what that something more might be?

STEPHEN MURPHY: I have not.

I mean, I talked to our police commissioner, and I know that the governor and his folks, everybody is working as a team, the state and local officials. And they have been — the Boston Regional Intelligence Center, which is just a few years old, is working right now to try to coordinate efforts on all law enforcement and public safety personnel in the area.

GWEN IFILL: Councillor Murphy, as you well know, Patriots’ Day is a big holiday in Boston. And the Boston Marathon is a big moment, 27,000 people running down the streets.

How off-putting, how upsetting, how much was it a blow to you standing there in the middle of this on this kind of day?

STEPHEN MURPHY: It was an attack on freedom itself, again, by whoever did it.

They’re trying to — there’s a psychological component to it. And I know that everybody has been psychologically scarred by it that was part of it. I was just one of a bunch of people that were within 30, 50 feet of the explosion. And, you know, it’s off-putting. It is.

But there was — I’m very happy at the way our response people responded. They did a tremendous job. So, there’s some solace in that.

GWEN IFILL: Did you witness any actual carnage nearby you? Was there blood nearby you or was this something that seemed to happen at a distance?

STEPHEN MURPHY: No, I was a little bit further away than — it wasn’t right at my feet or anything like that. But I did see people running by with clothes torn off and burn marks on them and blood.

There was that. I mean, I did see enough of that at the — right by the finish line. There was a lot of media right there. There was a media bridge …

GWEN IFILL: Yes.

STEPHEN MURPHY: … right there. And they were photographing everybody coming across the finish line.

And it was right at the corner of Exeter and Boylston streets, right by that media outpost when it happened. So …

GWEN IFILL: Well, our concerns go out to you and the city of — the people of the city of Boston.

City Council President Steve Murphy, thank you for calling in.