Danny, aka Jiang Lantan, is a 26-year-old Chinese entrepreneur whose Mercedes was carjacked by Boston Marathon bombers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev last Thursday evening.
The incident occurred at almost 11p.m. when the man, who has asked to only be identified by his American nickname Danny, but now known by Chinese bloggers as Jiang Lantan, had just pulled his car to the curb on Brighton Avenue, Boston.
While Danny was texting, a man in dark clothes approached his car and knocked on the window. Before the driver could react the man had unlocked the door, climbed in and was brandishing a silver handgun, according to the Boston Globe.
The man, who would later be identified as Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, asked Danny if he had followed the news about Monday’s Boston Marathon bombings.
“I did that,” said the man.
“And I just killed a policeman in Cambridge.”
Danny says he has been able to fill in important blanks between the murder of MIT police officer Sean Collier, just before 10:30 p.m. on April 18, and the Watertown shootout that ended just before 1 a.m. with the death of Tamerlan Tsarnaev and the serious wounding of his brother Dzhokhar, 19.
Jiang Lantan has described a truly harrowing ordeal which included a bizarre mix of bursts of life-threatening violence and everyday conversation on mundane subjects such as girls, how much payments on his Mercedes ML 350 were, the iPhone5 and whether anyone still listens to CDs.
At one point Tamerlan Tsarnaev told Danny not to look at his face, to he said he would not remember his face.
The bomb suspect replied: “It’s like white guys, they look at black guys and think all black guys look the same. And maybe you think all white guys look the same.”
In another moment during the carjacking, the suspects were disappointed that Danny did not have any CDs in his car. They flipped through the radio avoiding news stations and later put on a CD of chatting after they had made a stop.
To begin with Jiang Lantan was driving his car with Tamerlan Tsarnaev in the passenger seat beside him, while Dzhokhar following behind in a sedan. Later the brother’s moved all the gear into Danny’s car and Tamerlan drove.
The late-night drive lasted an hour and a half. At one stage during his ordeal, Danny says a friend called him on his phone and he was told by Tamerlan Tsarnaev that he would be killed if he spoke to the person in Chinese.
“Death is so close to me,” said Danny, recalling his thinking at the time.
“I don’t want to die.”
“I have a lot of dreams that haven’t come true yet,” said the student from central China, who attended a graduate school at Northeastern University before joining a tech start-up company.
Jiang Lantan had come to the US in 2009 for a master’s degree and graduated in January 2012, before returning to China to await a work visa.
He had returned two months ago, however he chose to told Tamerlan Tsarnaev that he was still a student and had been in the US barely a year.
Jiang Lantan says the brothers had some difficulty understanding his English when he tried to tell them he was from China.
“Oh, that’s why your English is not very good,” said Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
“OK, you’re Chinese… I’m a Muslim.”
“Chinese are very friendly to Muslims!” Danny said.
“We are so friendly to Muslims.”
Danny also revealed that could hear the brothers openly discussing driving to New York, although he couldn’t make out if they were planning another attack or just looking to escape.
Fortunately for Danny there was a problem because his car was almost out of gas and then a set of circumstances played out which afforded him an opportunity to escape his captors.
In search of petrol they stopped at a Shell Station and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was forced to go inside the Shell Food Mart to pay for petrol.
When Tamerlan Tsarnaev put his gun in the door pocket to fiddle with a navigation device, Danny seized his moment to escape.
“I was thinking I must do two things: unfasten my seatbelt and open the door and jump out as quick as I can. If I didn’t make it, he would kill me right out, he would kill me right away.”
He unbuckled his seat belt, opened the door, then slammed it behind, and sprinted off at an angle that would be a hard shot for any marksman.
“F***!” he heard Tamerlan Tsarnaev saying, but the man did not follow.
Jiang Lantan reached the safe haven of a Mobil station across the street and sought cover in a supply room, while he shouted at the clerk to call 911.
Authorities have said that Danny’s quick-thing escape allowed police to swiftly track down the Mercedes, abating a possible attack by the Tsarnaev brothers on New York City and precipitating a wild shootout in Watertown that killed Tamerlan and left a severely injured Dzhokhar hiding in the neighborhood.
After an hour of talking to police – as the shootout and manhunt erupted in Watertown -Danny was brought to East Watertown for a “drive-by lineup”, studying faces of detained suspects in the street from the safety of a cruiser.
He did not recognize the suspects in the line-up. He spent the night talking to local and state police and the FBI before being dropped at home at 3 p.m. the next afternoon.
Jiang Lantan said, when he was back in Cambridge, after questioning: “I think, Tamerlan is dead, I feel good, obviously safer. But the younger brother – I don’t know.”
Danny had wondered if Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had discovered his address and would come looking for him. But the police knew the wallet and registration were still in the bullet-riddled Mercedes, and that a wounded Dzhokhar could not have gone far.
That night, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was caught, ending a harrowing week across Greater Boston and in particular for Jiang Lantan.