Several seconds of excitement, followed by utter silence.
“There was cheering. There was just complete jubilation, officers embracing each other, and just as quick as it started, it stopped. It was stone-cold silent. You could hear a pin drop,” Lieutenant Michael C. Rogers said of the climax of last week’s intense manhunt for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one of the two men suspected of carrying out the Boston Marathon bombing last Monday.
Lt. Rogers was one of 14 Upper Cape police officers in Watertown Friday to support authorities during the hunt for Mr. Tsarnaev, who was captured Friday night after he was discovered hiding in a boat in storage at 67 Franklin Street.
The members of the Upper Cape Regional Special Response Team—comprised officers from Falmouth, Mashpee, and the Barnstable County Sheriff’s Department—were called up to Boston through a statewide mutual aid system to support local and state police and federal agencies in the days that followed the bombing. In addition to Lt. Rogers, who is the team’s co-commander, the Upper Cape contingent included: Falmouth patrolmen Christopher Bartolomei, Anthony Devito, Eric Kraus, and James Rogers (Lt. Rogers’ brother); Mashpee patrolmen Michael Assad and William Cuozzo; and from the sheriff’s department Captain Chris Erodekian, lieutenants Barney Murphy, Chip Lindberg, and James Aglin, and deputies Patrick Martin, Michael Huse, and Jason Arthurs.
There was cheering. There was just complete jubilation, officers embracing each other, and just as quick as it started, it stopped. It was stone-cold silent. You could hear a pin drop.
Lt. Michael Rogers
Within 36 hours of the bombing, the Upper Cape SRT began sending officers in groups of two or three to work 12-hour shifts providing support services such as crime scene security and guarding other potential targets.
When the manhunt kicked into high gear Friday, Ptl. Bartolomei and Ptl. Devito had been on-duty since the previous evening, Lt. Rogers said.
The SRT arrived around 10 AM at the central command post and staging area at the Arsenal Mall in Watertown. For a short period of time the officers provided security at Boston Common, and then were redeployed to Watertown to assist in the house-to-house search for Mr. Tsarnaev.
The officers assisted in 20 searches, and at one point “we were within five streets of where he was eventually captured,” Lt. Rogers said.
Around 6 PM the SRT officers were released for the night, and they were on their way back to the Cape when “we heard on the radio of shots being fired.”
Lt. Rogers and Ptl. Rogers managed to return to Watertown, where they joined police in surrounding the Franklin Street home where Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was eventually captured, while others returned to the mall to aid support functions.
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At one point, Lt. Rogers said he was within 40 feet of the boat and his brother, at the rear of the property, was within 70 feet.
Lt. Rogers said the suspect at one point apparently tried to turn the boat itself into an impromptu bomb by setting the boat on fire. “We were told that the boat could hold up to 44 gallons of gas,” but the officers did not know whether the boat was fueled, he said. “That kind of raised the ante a little bit. It made us a little nervous.”
When that effort failed, police ended the confrontation with “flash-bang” grenades, non-lethal devices that generate a blinding flash of light, a deafening bang, and a disorienting shockwave. “They threw a handful of those into the boat, which in my personal experience I think was a major factor in him deciding to surrender,” he said. “Just one of them is very powerful, and when multiple flash-bangs are deployed, it can definitely break your spirit and your will to want to keep fighting.”
“It was just a very powerful thing,” Lt. Rogers said of the entire experience, which he said was completely unlike anything he has ever dealt with during his 15 years with the Falmouth Police Department. “It was overwhelming. It was humbling.”
Lt. Rogers said the lessons learned during the manhunt are potentially applicable to what the SRT does on the Cape, and those lessons will affect how the Falmouth police in particular prepare for large-scale public events.
“We are taking another look at the [Falmouth] Road Race, Fourth of July events, large events like that,” he said. “We would be foolish not to.”