Boston Strong

Former Boston Police Commissioner Bill Evans Recalls Manhunt for Bombing Suspects

The marathon bombings were extremely personal for Evans. The longtime runner had just finished his 18th Boston Marathon when he was quickly called back to a horrific finish line that started a true test of his endurance

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By all accounts, the search for the Boston Marathon bombers was a success. Within a week, police arrested one brother and the other was killed in a shootout. But for the first time, we’re hearing radio communications from that day when the hunt for the suspect led Bill Evans to a boat. Evans is the retired Boston Police commissioner, who was the incident commander in Watertown during the manhunt. Evans walks us through some of the lessons learned.

When police finally captured Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and brought him out of the parked boat in Watertown, this final scene of his surrender was nearly derailed.

“Someone fired, we believe from the second floor of the home at the boat. It was a trooper or outside agency. And as a result of that, several officers started a fire," Evans explained.

This was around 7 Friday night.

“I'm screaming at the top of my lungs to get them all to stop shooting.”

Evans has since retired from Boston Police and now heads up Boston College’s police force. He said self-deployment was a key misstep that day.

“Officers love to run to the danger, but sometimes they can get in the way,” he said.

The marathon bombings were extremely personal for Evans. The longtime runner had just finished his 18th Boston that Monday. He was quickly called back to a horrific finish line that started a true test of his endurance.

  “I remember seeing the destruction, seeing the young bodies lying on the street. It was really surreal because I had just run down that street an hour earlier,” Evans recalled.

The FBI released photos of the two suspects late Thursday afternoon. And in the overnight hours of Friday morning, the search for the bombers would bring Evans to Watertown, where there had been a shootout, explosions, and the death of one brother. Now there was an all-out-search for the second suspect who had escaped.

“I remember looking at Dexter Ave and Laurel Street and seeing the live munitions on the ground. I remember seeing several handguns spread out on the ground. And I’ll always remember there was a pressure cooker embedded in the side of a gray vehicle in a driveway.”

Hundreds of officers from dozens of departments and various agencies would turn the Watertown Mall parking lot into a staging area. But Evans said he stayed on his beat, directing his officers in the search. Seventeen hours later, there another problem, - their phones and walkie-talkies were dead, just as Evans says one of his officers told him the suspect was nearby in a boat. He went with two Boston lieutenants to check it out and there he was.

“At that point, we had two choices. Either we go in and get him or we slow it down. I decided to call for a tactical team,” he said. He went to his car, put new batteries in his radio and that’s when he heard the dispatcher’s call.

“We already had the guy in the boat for a good 10, 15 minutes when we are hearing communications that there's a guy in a boat behind 67 Franklin. And I got on, and I said, ‘This is Yankee C3, I have the guy in the boat, so disregard the call.’” But it was too late.

Evans said all the officers who heard the transmission moved in, creating that chaotic moment.

"It's crazy. I'm standing and everyone's diving on the ground. But I was so laser-focused, just looking at the boat in the driveway.”

At about 8:30 p.m., an FBI tactical team would get Tsarnaev to surrender. For the first time since Marathon Monday, Evans would finally feel like he had finished his race.

“I'll always remember being with my two officers and riding away and seeing the crowds, it was almost as if we just won the war.” Evans said. “Being the final person at the scene who is responsible for the final arrest was a great sense of satisfaction for me, because marathons are my life, and the Boston Marathon is a big part of who we are. And to be instrumental in catching the two individuals who did it made me pretty proud.”

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