Boston Marathon Attack

04.19.13

How a Famous Marathon Bombing Victim Helped Name the Suspects

Jeff Bauman—the man who had his legs blown off and was pictured with the cowboy—may have helped identify one of the suspects. Read Michael Daly’s report, published before the shootout in Watertown early Friday morning.

The investigators kept at it around the clock, pursuing thousands of leads.

“Working methodically and with a sense of urgency,” Richard DesLauriers, the FBI’s special agent in charge of the Boston division, later noted.

One crucial lead is said to have come early on from Jeff Bauman, who lost both legs in the first explosion. He may very well have bled to death had a quick-thinking hero in a cowboy hat named Carlos Arredondo not torn up a sweater to fashion tourniquets, then hurried him to an ambulance, as first described in The Daily Beast.

As recounted to Bloomberg News by his brother Chris, Bauman awoke from surgery and wrote a note reading, “bag, saw the guy, looked right at me.” The FBI interviewed the remarkably gutsy Jeff Bauman in intensive care. He described an encounter with a man wearing sunglasses and a black jacket who left a bag at his feet that exploded minutes later.

This reportedly gave the FBI agents somebody to look for as they went through the massive amount of footage from surveillance cameras and digital images sent in by the public.

By Wednesday, they had singled out a young man with a backpack whom DesLauriers subsequently termed “a single person of interest.” Word of the break leaked, and rumors spread that a suspect had been identified and even that there had been an arrest.

DesLauriers proved he was the perfect person for the job. He had learned during his three years as head of the Boston office how going public can quickly result in the capture of even a wily fugitive gangster who had eluded a manhunt for more than a decade.

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Emergency responders and volunteers, including Carlos Arredondo (in the cowboy hat), push Jeff Bauman in a wheelchair after he was injured in an explosion near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15. (Charles Krupa/AP)

But DesLauriers had also learned through his many years in counterintelligence the importance of seeing who keeps company with whom. He was the lead agent in the case that brought down a whole Russian spy ring who included the couple who inspired the TV show The Americans.

He held off just a little longer, even though there must have been immense pressure to confirm that there was indeed a significant development in the case, which we all wanted so desperately to be solved and was all the more unnerving because nobody had claimed credit for it.

“Not knowing that the individual was acting alone or in concert with others, we busily worked with extreme purpose to make that determination,” DesLauriers later said.

The investigators kept searching for more images of the young man Bauman had described. They soon came upon video footage of that person of interest walking in tandem with another young man with a backpack. The two maintained an improbably constant distance apart, as if they were making a conscious effort of not looking like they were together. They seemed to have a shared smugness.

“Though it may be difficult, the nation is counting on those with information to come forward and provide it to us.”

The FBI already had Bauman describing the planting of the first bomb that went off. They now found images of the second young man leaving his backpack at the precise location of the second bomb and then striding away just before the explosion.

At 5 p.m. Thursday, DesLauriers was ready to tap the same power that had produced the crucial break in what had—until the marathon bombing—been the biggest case in Boston. Whitey Bulger had been captured after a woman in Iceland saw a CNN report about an FBI television ad asking people to keep a lookout for the gangster and his girlfriend. The Icelandic woman recognized the accompanying photos as a couple she had known by other names in Southern California—and Bulger was soon in custody on charges that include 19 murders.

And that had been with relatively little public attention. There was interest unlike for any case in recent memory as DesLauriers now released images of the two young men, describing them as Suspect No. 1 and Suspect No. 2.

“Today we are enlisting the public’s help to identify the two suspects,” he said. “With the media’s help, in an instant these images will be delivered directly into the hands of millions around the world.”

Video screenshot

The FBI released surveillance footage of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects.

Suspect No. 1, the one matching the description provided by Bauman, wore a black baseball cap with the brim facing forward, sunglasses, a black jacket, and tan pants. He carried a black backpack on both shoulders that rode slightly down his back, as if it contained something relatively heavy.

Suspect No. 2 had on a white baseball cap with the brim turned backward, making his face more visible. He wore a dark jacket, a gray hoodie, and dark pants. A light-colored backpack was slung casually over his right shoulder.

In an image from where the second bomb was placed, Suspect No. 2 can be seen one person back from the railing at the edge of the marathon route. He is apparently talking on a cellphone in his raised left hand. The strap of his backpack is no longer visible on his right shoulder. He has apparently set it down prior to walking away, just before the blast. His face is slightly blurred, but he seems to have a kind of smirk as he stands surrounded people who will in a flash become victims of unspeakable violence.

“Within minutes,” DesLauriers would note.

Among images that were not released is the one that reportedly shows Suspect No. 2 actually planting his backpack just before the explosion of the second bomb. However damning that image may someday prove in court, it does not identify him as clearly as the photos shown. And the FBI does not want anything to distract the public from the critical task at hand.

“Identifying and locating those responsible is our highest priority,” DesLauriers said. “Somebody out there knows these individuals as friends, neighbors, co-workers, or family members of the suspects.”

He added, “Though it may be difficult, the nation is counting on those with information to come forward and provide it to us.”

He said anyone with information should call 800-CALL-FBI or go to the website. The first tips were no doubt coming in even as he spoke, and one challenge will be the sheer volume of them. But the investigators are sure to sift through them with same methodical urgency with which they sifted through the images.

The first big break in the case reportedly came after Bauman asked a nurse in the recovery room for a pen and paper and wrote the note saying he had seen one of the bombers.  

The FBI now needs somebody else to write a note or make a call and give them a name.