TOPICS > World

Media’s Hunger for Answers on Boston Bombing Leads to Conflicting Reports

April 17, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT
Despite media outlets' conflicting reports, the FBI insisted no arrests had been made in connection to the Boston Marathon bombings. Jeffrey Brown talks with WBUR's David Boeri, who reported that senior judges and top officials were directed to prepare the courthouse for an impending arrest until threats shut down the building.
LISTEN SEE PODCASTS

TRANSCRIPT

JEFFREY BROWN: In Boston today, confusion erupted over conflicting accounts that there had been a major break in the investigation of the bombings earlier this week.

Early this afternoon, crowds gathered outside the federal courthouse in South Boston, amid reports that a suspect had been identified by security camera video, then arrested and even taken to court. But the FBI shot down claims that anyone was in custody, and it issued a statement that said, in part: “Since these stories often have unintended consequences, we ask the media to exercise caution and attempt to verify information.”

MAN: Another 100 hundred yards back.

JEFFREY BROWN: The Bureau also put off an afternoon briefing, citing a bomb scare that forced everybody out of the courthouse.

Earlier, the FBI released photos of remnants of the bombs made out of pressure cookers and the black nylon bags that concealed them. One of the pressure cooker lids was catapulted to a nearby rooftop. And investigators kept sifting the crime scene for more clues today. All three people killed in the bombings have now been identified, eight-year old Martin Richard, 29-year-old Krystle Campbell, and Lu Lingzi, a Chinese graduate student at Boston University.

Last night, neighbors and friends of Martin Richard and his family held a candlelight vigil near a baseball diamond and field where he used to play.

DARRAGH MURPHY, Boston: Everybody knows them, everybody loves them. It’s just unthinkable, such — you know, anybody’s little boy was our little boy.

JEFFREY BROWN: Boston Common was the site of another vigil last night. Several hundred turned out to sing and pay tribute to those killed and the more than 170 injured.

KISHA WILSON, Boston: Bostonians and people who are here are resilient, and we come together in the hardest times and the best times, so, you know, it’s still great to be a Bostonian.

JEFFREY BROWN: And in Washington today, Secretary of State John Kerry, who also calls Boston home, spoke emotionally at a congressional hearing.

SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY, United States: The granddaughter of a very, very close supporter and friend of mine through all of my political career is fighting to keep both of her legs. The — Boston is not going to be intimidated by this. But we’re going to find out who did this.

JEFFREY BROWN: Many of the injured who were treated at area hospitals have now been released. But doctors said a number are facing new surgeries and other threats.

DR. PETER BURKE, Boston Medical Center: So, now what we’re doing with these patients is evaluating their wounds to see — making sure that there’s not any other processes going on, trying to prevent infection, and allowing them to be — for these wounds to heal and then eventually for these patients to have their wounds closed and then start the rehabilitation process.

JEFFREY BROWN: Meanwhile, makeshift memorials sprang up at the entrance of the still-closed Boylston Street, where the marathon had its finish line. People left flowers, flags, posters, and race medals. And there were memorials of another kind from runners.

ANDY ZISKIND, Boston: I was trying to run along the river, and I kind of felt an obligation to run along the boundary of the police cordon. I just felt like something that is drawing runners to respect the people that were hurt and respect the people in the race.

JEFFREY BROWN: Elsewhere in the nation, tensions remained high. In Oklahoma City, where a truck bombing killed 168 people in 1995, buildings were evacuated after a U-Haul truck was parked outside City Hall. It turned out to be empty.

And we’re joined from Boston once again tonight by David Boeri, a reporter for WBUR Public Radio. He’s been covering the turn of events all day.

Well, David, a very confusing day. What is the latest about whether anyone is now in custody or identified as a suspect? What can you tell us?

DAVID BOERI, WBUR Public Radio: Jeff, at this point, both the FBI and the U.S. attorney here in Boston insist there have been no arrests made. Nobody is in custody.

However, there is a lot of confusion regarding this and reports that we have had throughout the day.

JEFFREY BROWN: What about — some of these reports involve images that were caught of somebody with the bag that has now been identified.

DAVID BOERI: We started the day with news report that the detonation for those pressure cookers had been a timing device, that a circuit board had been found and it was a timing device. So far, so good.

Then we started to get reports independently that there had been images of a man seen putting a duffel bag close to one of the areas where the bombing took place, and also that there was an image, that there was great surveillance video from a Lord & Taylor shop that was near the area that had also shown activity.

Then that led to reports, again by a number of independent sources, that there had been an arrest made. So the FBI and the U.S. attorney’s office came in, knocked the story down. However, I had gone over to the U.S. courthouse here, being told in fact that there was an arrest, and while I was there, I was told by two senior judges and two other senior officials that in fact they had been told to prepare for somebody being brought over in connection to the bombing.

A courthouse — a courtroom was being prepared, and they were even preparing an overflow courtroom at the time. That’s when we got a code red alert in the courthouse. An evacuation took place, an evacuation because a threat that had been — that had been made that was deemed credible and the building was evacuated at that point.

And, by the way, that building has the U.S. attorney’s office in it.

JEFFREY BROWN: Well, all of these reports coming out, rumors swirling, law enforcement officials are clearly quite upset with news organizations for getting too far ahead of things.

DAVID BOERI: That’s true.

We were lectured by the FBI national headquarters. And also the U.S. attorney’s office here said, we don’t know where the story came from. And yet I can tell you that, at the courthouse, two senior judges and two other senior officials told me they had been told, prepare, we are bring somebody over.

I think, perhaps, we can say from this it would be an indication maybe there’s nobody in custody, maybe no arrests have been made, but perhaps we are close to some real progress in this case that might involve an arrest. But there is none now.

The press conference that the U.S. attorney had called for this afternoon was postponed. We don’t know when it will take place. The courthouse is closed. The public will not be allowed there tonight. So it wouldn’t seem that anything is going to happen at the courthouse either.

JEFFREY BROWN: Well, hearing different versions or different reports come out, it is clear who is in charge? Is the FBI in charge of this?

DAVID BOERI: The FBI is supposed to be in charge of this, but as that bomb threat, that code red alert indicated, with the U.S. attorney’s office being forced to evacuate, there’s a lot of turmoil here right now, a lot of confusion.

One would think that they will have a press conference soon because they need to address some of these reports that were made by a number of independent sources that indicated that they had somebody. Perhaps it wasn’t an arrest, perhaps nobody in custody. There’s the possibility that they’re talking to somebody voluntarily and may be close to something.

JEFFREY BROWN: So, they had canceled or at least postponed that late afternoon news conference, but they may still talk tonight?

DAVID BOERI: We are waiting for them. They said that it was postponed. Well, if it’s postponed, it will be rescheduled for tonight. But it hasn’t been rescheduled yet.

And there is — at the same time, Jeff, there’s a tremendous amount of work being done on the images. They have a terrific amount of images right now. And, as one expert — as one forensic expert told me, Boston is now the most photographed crime scene in history.

JEFFREY BROWN: Well, we talked a little bit about this yesterday, they, of course, law enforcement asking for the public to help. So these images are coming from the public. They’re coming from local stores. They’re coming where? Give us a sense.

DAVID BOERI: That’s right, from both, from individuals, from stores, from surveillance cameras.

If I can give you an example, Jeff, the closest analog to this is what happened in the city of Vancouver two years ago. After it happens the Bruins beat the Canucks in the Stanley Cup, fans rioted in downtown Vancouver. They set fires. They overturned cars. They broke glass. It was a chaotic moment.

The police there put out a call for photos and videos. They obtained 5,000 hours of video and over 100,000 photos. They then brought in national experts. There were 53 experts that worked full-time for three weeks. And at the end of the time, they had identified 15,000 criminal acts. Of course, this behavior is explicit — but 15,000 criminal acts.

They tagged the individuals, and they made charges that brought over 350 people into court. This is far bigger, but that’s an example of what you can do with photograph and — photographs and photographic analysis.

JEFFREY BROWN: And just very briefly, David, yesterday we talked about the crime scene. Is it still as large as it was?

DAVID BOERI: The crime scene is very large.

Of course, they’re working in that close area where the two bomb blasts were. Fortunately, we have not had really bad weather. Rain was expected last night. Often, rain will ruin — it is considered to have ruined a crime scene. It didn’t happen. There has been some wind, but they still have that crime scene. It is still relatively intact.

JEFFREY BROWN: David Boeri, WBUR, thank you very much once again.

DAVID BOERI: You’re welcome.