Boston SWAT officers who handcuffed Dzhokhar Tsarnaev say that they didn’t “have time to be afraid” as they inched toward his hiding spot on Friday.
The SWAT officers from the MBTA held a press conference on Monday, as they were officially recognized for their efforts in taking down Boston Marathon suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev after an all-day manhunt in Watertown.
Watertown was gripped with fear as the sun went down on Friday, when pops of gunfire and the booms of flash grenades were heard – all focused on a boat parked in a Franklin Street driveway.
The well-trained SWAT team then approached David Henneberry’s boat, not knowing whether Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was armed or had rigged the vessel with the same bombs he allegedly used in the attack at the marathon days prior.
SWAT Officer Jeff Campbell – who pulled Dzhokhar Tsarnaev off the boat – noted how the officers had proceeded carefully, saying: “We had no idea if the boat was rigged with explosives. He could have done anything.”
The officers admitted that they were sitting ducks – out in the open in the backyard as they moved in.
Jeff Campbell told former FBI assistant director John Miller in a CBS interview airing on Tuesday: “As we’re approaching what we call the danger zone… That’s the danger zone because there’s no cover for us except that ballistic shield.”
But as they got closer, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev suddenly stood up in the boat, acknowledging that he was ready to surrender.
Officer Jeff Campbell noted that the suspect “looked weak” and was “shaky”.
He told John Miller: “[Dzhokhar Tsarnaev] appeared to be losing consciousness and did have some wounds to his body. You could see the blood on his body.”
Once the suspect was off the boat, Officer Saro Thompson said: “Officer [Kenny] Tran helped me secure the suspect along with other people from different teams that we do not know the names of.”
Sgt. Sean Reynolds, who is also part of the team, told reporters: “You don’t really have time to be afraid.”
Officer Saro Thompson added: “At a time like that, training kicks in. We don’t have emotion going into something like that.
“We ended up putting him in cuffs and we turned him over to the medics after we moved him away from the boat.”
When asked if Dzhokhar Tsarnaev spoke as he was arrested, Saro Thompson said: “I don’t think he had the energy to say anything. Once we got him on the ground, he was compliant and was going in and out of consciousness.”
One of their colleagues, transit police officer Richard H. Donahue, 33, was seriously injured during the wild shootout with the Tsarnaev brothers early on Friday morning.
Officer Saro Thompson said that when he visited Richard H. Donahue in the hospital on Monday, he proudly informed him: “We got him.”
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s older brother Tamerlan died in a hospital after that confrontation, likely from injuries sustained when he was run over by a stolen vehicle driven by Dzhokhar.
The interview with the SWAT officers came after Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was read his Miranda Rights on Monday as he was charged with using weapons of mass destruction during an arraignment while he laid in his hospital bed.
During the proceedings in his Boston hospital bed, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev only uttered the word “no” when asked if he could afford a defense attorney.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, was arraigned in his hospital bed at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center on Monday by a magistrate judge, court officials said.
A probable cause hearing in the case was then set for May 30.