The First Glimpse Of The Federal Case Against The Alleged Boston Bomber

Cambridge, MA — One week after he and his brother allegedly set off explosive devices near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, and three days after his dramatic apprehension in Watertown, Mass., Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, was charged on Monday in federal court in Massachusetts with using a weapon of mass destruction and malicious destruction of property resulting in death.The charges, and an accompanying affidavit written by Daniel Genck, an FBI special agent in Boston, represent the starting point of the government’s case against Tsarnaev. In many ways, Genck’s filing matches much of what news outlets including TPM have reported about the events of the past week. But the official filing also clarifies a few matters, and complicates a few others. And many questions remain.

What Happened In The Carjacking?

Genck’s affidavit provides a sketch of the events that occurred late Thursday and early Friday, in the violent and frantic hours after the FBI released images of the two suspects, whose identities were still then unknown to law enforcement.

Near midnight on Thursday, according the the filing, one person carjacked a vehicle at gunpoint in Cambridge. The victim later told law enforcement that he was sitting in his car, reported to be a black Mercedes SUV, when a man approached and tapped on the passenger-side window. The driver rolled down the window, and the man reached in, opened the door, and got in the car. He pointed his gun at the driver.

“Did you hear about the Boston explosion?” the man allegedly asked the driver. “I did that.”

After showing the driver that the gun was loaded, the carjacker had the victim drive to another location, where they picked up a second man. (The affidavit alleges that the two men were the Tsarnaev brothers. But it does not say which brother allegedly initiated the carjacking.) The brothers then put something in the trunk of the car, and the man with the gun took the driver’s keys, and got behind the wheel, with the victim in the passenger seat and the second carjacker in the back. According to the victim, the two men spoke to each other in a foreign language. They asked the victim for money. He had $45. They then forced him to give them his ATM card and PIN, and drove to an ATM.

Another point where things are still unclear: the moment at which the carjacking victim gets away from the suspects. Did he escape, or was he released? According to the affidavit, the trio drove to a gas station/convenience store on Memorial Drive, which winds along the Cambridge side of the Charles River. At the gas station, the two men got out of the car, according to the filing, “at which point the victim managed to escape.” But a report filed by the driver to the Cambridge Police, and reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, indicates that the two men “declared to [the victim] that they were the Boston Marathon bombers and would not kill him because he wasn’t American.”

News reports have also indicated that law enforcement used GPS to track a cell phone left in the car by the victim, and have raised the possibility of the suspects having more than one car. But the FBI affidavit states only that the vehicle was located by law enforcement “a short time later” in Watertown, Mass. On Dexter Street, at least two IEDs were thrown out of the car. On Laurel Street, a gun battle with law enforcement officers then took place. As we now know, the older brother, Tamerlan, was fatally injured in the melee, with some reports from law enforcement indicating that he was run over as his fleeing brother tried to ram officers on the street with the SUV. But the charging documents are more muted, noting simply that one of the suspects was “severely injured” and remained on the scene and that the second escaped in the carjacked vehicle, which was later found nearby, with an “intact low-grade explosive device” inside.

Absent from the affidavit is any mention of the killing of Sean Collier, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer who was found shot in his patrol car in Cambridge around 10:30 p.m. on Thursday. Collier was transported to Massachusetts General Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

How Much Video Footage Of The Crime Is There?

Apart from the events of Thursday night and Friday morning, the affidavit also provides an overview of the surveillance evidence obtained by investigators of the bombing incident itself. One security camera, positioned on the corner of Boylston Street and Gloucester Streets, captured two young men, alleged to be the Tsarnaev brothers, turning left onto Boylston Street last Monday at approximately 2:38 p.m. — 11 minutes or so before the explosions went off. Both men can be seen carrying large backpacks. Their outfits are now familiar to anyone who has seen the photos and video footage released by the FBI last week. Tamerlan wore a dark-colored baseball cap, sunglasses, a white shirt, a dark coat, and tan pants. Dzhokhar wore a backwards white baseball cap, a gray hooded sweatshirt, a lightweight black jacket, and dark pants. The pair walked east on Boylston Street, toward the marathon’s finish line, with Tamerlan leading the way.

A second security camera, located above the doorway of the Forum restaurant at 755 Boylston Street, recorded some of what happened next. At approximately 2:41 p.m., the camera captured the two suspects standing together about a half block from the restaurant. A minute later, Tamerlan, still wearing a backpack, began walking east on Boylston, closer to the finish line, passing directly in front of Forum, toward the spot where the first explosion would occur. At 2:45 p.m., Dzhokhar, with the thumb of his right hand hooked under the strap of his backpack and his left hand apparently holding a cell phone, walked east on Boylston and stopped directly in front of Forum. He stood near the metal barrier that separated the runners from the spectators, facing the street. He then apparently slipped the backpack off and placed it on the ground.

The video from Forum’s camera shows Dzhokhar remaining in place for the ensuing four minutes, occasionally looking at his cell phone, and, in one instance, apparently taking a photograph. About 30 seconds before the explosion went off, he lifted his phone to his ear, where he kept it for nearly 20 seconds. A few seconds after he puts down his phone, the footage shows the large crowd reacting to the first explosion. Almost every head in the footage turns to the east, the affidavit states. But Dzhokhar remains calm. He glances to the east and then “calmly but rapidly” begins walking west, without his backpack. Ten seconds or so later, the second explosion occurs in the spot where he left it.

What Condition In Dzhokhar Tsarnaev In?

As of Monday morning, Tsarnaev remained in serious condition at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

Genck’s affidavit suggests Tsarnaev may have been wounded more extensively than previously thought. According to the affidavit, he had gunshot wounds to the head, neck, legs, and one hand.

On Sunday, according to the affidavit, the FBI searched Tsarnaev’s dorm room at UMass Darthmouth. Inside, they found a black jacket and white hat, “of the same general appearance as those worn by Bomber Two at the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013”