The Fog of Terror

Kudos to the Boston Globe, for publishing what can’t have been an easy story, under the (BOSTON STRONG!) circumstances:

This week, as the 2014 Boston Marathon draws near, memories of suffering and heroism surely dominate the minds of everyone in the city and region. Responses to the public safety challenge presented by the search for perpetrators, however, were far from flawless. Police officers made major mistakes in the use of weapons during the hunt for the Tsarnaev brothers in Watertown.

Why Was Boston Strong?” — a report by the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University — analyzes the superb response of the medical community and first responders in treating the injured and conducting an investigation that quickly produced photos of the two suspects. Once the police located the SUV allegedly stolen by the brothers, Watertown officers cornered them and were in the process of subduing Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Then came the first mistake.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev attempted to escape in the SUV. Officers from other departments, called to the scene by an appeal for help from Watertown, opened fire on the vehicle. A police bullet likely hit and nearly killed MBTA officer Richard Donohue.

The Kennedy School report finds that “in tactical situations definitive and authoritative command is an essential resource.” The Watertown officers, familiar with each other and the neighborhood, sorted out their responsibilities despite being under heavy fire. Chaos ensued once the out-of-town officers arrived.

One officer riddled a vehicle with bullets, narrowing missing two officers inside; another shot grazed a transit police officer — the second and third gunfire mistakes. Officers with guns drawn surrounded a man walking in the area. Other officers, also with guns in hand, encircled the vehicle of another passerby. The report notes that this created “a potential crossfire hazard,’’ similar to that which resulted in the Donohue shooting. Intervention by superior officers possibly prevented another tragedy…

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59 replies
  1. 1
    gwangung says:

    Not that this will have any effect, but this is the PERFECT reasoning for why arming everyone in a shooting situation is such a dumb idea.

  2. 2
    the Conster says:

    As a front row witness to most of the events of that day, it was crazy town. As a lifelong resident of the area, everyone I know – literally – had a connection to a victim, the merchants impacted, the location of the events or the bombers, the doctors who are our neighbors and friends, the cops who are our neighbors and friends. Boston is a very small town and this happened to all of us. It’s hard for outsiders to grok, but there was a visceral revulsion on the part of anyone who had ever stood at that finish line, along the route or knew anyone who runs – which is basically everyone who has lived in the Boston area for any length of time – that those motherfuckers had to be tracked down, and they were. There will only be forgiveness for mistakes that were made, because the Tsarnaev’s must pay. I hate the tragedy porn, but the outpouring of support is and was real.

  3. 3
    Keith G says:

    For a while now, we have been under some type of pathological, emotional malady that requires us to worship first responders and “the troops”. We do this to the point were we forego adequate oversight as well as the imposition of necessary limits.

    Hopefully we will find politicians wise and brave enough to speak out against this set of dangerous trends.

  4. 4
    🌷 Martin says:

    @gwangung: You forget that everyone armed with a blinged out AR-15 has the same courage, judgement, reflexes, and aim as a Hollywood superhero, whereas those police officers are in a union.

  5. 5
    Nylund says:

    Am I supposed to be surprised that cops aren’t super-human and that they sometimes shoot at the wrong people? I agree with the others. Given that cops do stuff like this all the time, promoting a society that encourages non-law-enforcement officers to use their guns in public is a huge mistake.

    People make really dumb mistakes and poor decisions all the time. Holding a gun doesn’t change that.

  6. 6
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    Mind you, these are all trained professional “good guys” making these friendly fire mistakes.

    Now, imagine a bunch of fuckhead glibertarian gun fetishists from the “Freedom Project” going apeshit with semiautomatic rifles shooting at “bad guys” who are not dressed identically, which of course is not going to prevent friendly fire under stressful fog of war conditions.

  7. 7
    gwangung says:

    I’m going to posit that there WASN’T any more loss of life is because of the training given to police.

  8. 8
    Chris says:

    @Keith G:

    For a while now, we have been under some type of pathological, emotional malady that requires us to worship first responders and “the troops”. We do this to the point were we forego adequate oversight as well as the imposition of necessary limits.

    Though when it comes to giving them adequate medical care or whatnot… yeah.

  9. 9
    Avery Greynold says:

    The NRA’s dream. Everyone on the scene armed and ready to shoot first because they have immunity by their good intent. While this featured trained and experienced shooters, NRA wants to insure that gun owners have no burden of required training. Similar story was the Christopher Jordan Dorner manhunt, where 3 innocent civilians were targeted for killing but escaped death in a hail of police bullets.

  10. 10

    @Keith G:

    The country and politicians only worship them until they are injured and require a lifetime of medical care or if they have the balls to finally live long enough to retire and expect to collect the retirement benefits that were promised to them. At that point they become “moochers” and “takers” who are destroying and bankrupting not only their local municipalities but the entire country. At that point they become “Union Thugs” it is quite a thing to behold to be honest.

  11. 11
    Kyle says:

    @Avery Greynold:

    The NRA’s dream. Everyone on the scene armed and ready to shoot first because they have immunity by their good intent.

    Shorter NRA:
    Did they all buy guns and generate profits for the manufacturers? All good. Whatever happens afterward is “not my problem.”

  12. 12
    aimai says:

    I’m proud of the JFK school for producing a serious report that doesn’t whitewash the obvious problems with the police response in watertown. Right afterwards, at least in the radio interviews, there were rather fawning interviews with the various police types who had been at the shoot out and who knew better about how Tsarnaev was responsible for the shooting of the MBTA guy.

  13. 13
    Baud says:

    @Litlebritdiftrnt:

    The country and politicians only worship them until they are injured and require a lifetime of medical care or if they have the balls to finally live long enough to retire and expect to collect the retirement benefits that were promised to them.

    So they’re analogous to fetuses.

  14. 14
    e.a.f. says:

    It wasn’t Boston strong, it was Boston scared shitless along with the rest of the U.S.A.

    It was very fortunate others weren’t killed.

    As they parade out all the “survivors”, my questions is: who paid the medical bills and who will be assisting the victims of the bombing through their lives. Sure won’t be the gung ho ones, the NRA, the various levels of government, or the gun manufacturing companies.

    This is what the British and Irish lived with for a lot of years. A lot of the killing in Great Britain was financed by Americans in Boston. See how they feel about it now. What happened in Boston is a daily occurance in Iraq, Afghanistan and it is the “Boston strong” type crowd who caused it in those countries. Now the chickens so to speak have come home to roost.

  15. 15
    raven says:

    @e.a.f.: Fuck you dick head.

  16. 16
    Cacti says:

    @e.a.f.:

    This is what the British and Irish lived with for a lot of years. A lot of the killing in Great Britain was financed by Americans in Boston. See how they feel about it now. What happened in Boston is a daily occurance in Iraq, Afghanistan and it is the “Boston strong” type crowd who caused it in those countries. Now the chickens so to speak have come home to roost.

    Thanks for the insights, McVeigh.

  17. 17

    @e.a.f.:

    Probably going to get flamed the shit out of this response but I agree with you. The Irish Americans who financed the carnage in Britain during “The Troubles” thought nothing for the kids they were killing. They had some romanticized version of their “brothers in arms” fighting against “the man”. Fucking murderous bastards were just killing Royal Marine bandsmen and boy scouts.

  18. 18
    raven says:

    @Litlebritdiftrnt: Has not one goddamn thing to do with this.

  19. 19
    Cassidy says:

    @raven: He/she didn’t say it did. At least, I didn’t understand it that way.

  20. 20

    @raven:

    Agree and I should not have fed the troll.

  21. 21
    raven says:

    @Cassidy: Uh huh, she didn’t and she knows I that I respect her greatly but thanks for chiming in.

  22. 22
    Cassidy says:

    @raven: Okay. Whatever.

    ETA: Maybe you’ve run out of prune juice, but if you’re gonna be a douche, then kindly take your hand, make a fist, raise your thumb and jam it right up your ass. Your opinion is worth about as much as mine. But thanks for chiming in.

  23. 23
    raven says:

    @Cassidy:Yea yea, tell me all about it. You have plenty of room calling someone else out for being an asshole.

  24. 24
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Avery Greynold:

    Similar story was the Christopher Jordan Dorner manhunt, where 3 innocent civilians were targeted for killing but escaped death in a hail of police bullets.

    Actually, I would say that police accidentally shooting each other during a chase and police accidentally shooting innocent civilians are two totally different things. Friendly fire at other cops is somewhat understandable and can probably be taken care of with extra training. Firing on civilians who weren’t even in the same make/model of car reported as Dorner’s is unforgivable, IMO.

    (And I say this as a 20+ year resident of Los Angeles.)

  25. 25
    Belafon says:

    My home town just finished a drill that combined a shooter at one of the middle schools with the same shooter setting fire to the middle school. This meant that the fire and police departments had to set up a joint incident command to manage the two responses. Listening to the post analysis, we have a lot of work to do. One group at the incident command center just decided that the noise was too loud so they left. Radio channels that people thought they could talk on were limited to one way communication from incident command. Other channels people tried were communicating with units in other cities that were actually responding to real events.

    //

    OT: Know how some of the front pagers consider it a waste to send humans outside the earth, especially to the Moon or Mars? Well, I have a completely useless activity that humans do that really needs to stop: Climbing Mount Everest. It’s pointless other than killing people. While we are at it, let’s rename it Mount Sherpa.

  26. 26
    Cassidy says:

    @raven: Oh, I’m not calling you out for being an asshole. I was telling you to go fuck yourself.

  27. 27
    James E. Powell says:

    @Keith G:

    Hopefully we will find politicians wise and brave enough to speak out against this set of dangerous trends.

    You cannot be serious. Politicians do not get elected or re-elected (the only two things they care about) by speaking out against anything as popular as hero-worship and revenge porn.

  28. 28
    Cassidy says:

    @Mnemosyne: IIRC, the SUV was moving a lot trying to escape. Hitting something moving is never easy, even for big targets and bullets do weird things when they ricochet.

  29. 29
    chopper says:

    hey now, guys. with this bickering we’re losing sight of who the real assholes are – Yankees fans.

  30. 30
    raven says:

    @Cassidy: What’s the difference? Everyone in Boston deserves to die because someone there supported the IRA just like everyone in New York deserves to die because of Peter King.

  31. 31
    Nutella says:

    The most shocking thing to me was the news photos of SWAT teams forcing citizens out of their homes at gunpoint so they could search the houses. Somehow it made it worse, more personal that the streets of Watertown in the photos looked so familiar. (Former Malden resident)

    That and the complete shutdown of Watertown and nearby towns were outrageous and disgusting overreactions that should never have happened in a ‘free’ country. And they didn’t work. Tsarnaev was found right after the shutdown was cancelled by an alert citizen noticing something different about the boat in his backyard when he was permitted to go out.

  32. 32
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Cassidy:

    Read the link. The truck was moving erratically because it was delivering newspapers. LAPD fired over 100 shots.

    Basically, it was a typical LAPD action — jump to conclusions, overreact, and (almost) kill innocent people. That’s how Anthony Lee got killed, among many others.

  33. 33
    Cassidy says:

    @Mnemosyne: I was talking about the Tsarnaev brothers. The LAPD thing is a severe case of stupid and scared.

  34. 34
    Cassidy says:

    @raven: That’s not what I was talking about.

  35. 35
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Cassidy:

    Ah, okay. Like I said, I can’t get all upset when police officers responding to a situation get injured — that’s one of the hazards of the job, and it’s the department’s job to retrain people to try and prevent it.

  36. 36
    raven says:

    @Litlebritdiftrnt: Can’t wait for tonight’s BBC triple play (even if we do tape Bletchley Circle for later)!

  37. 37
    Betty Cracker says:

    Kudos to The Boston Globe. It’s important to take a hard look and figure out what went wrong or nothing will ever be improved. That’s how a healthy society works.

    Here’s how a sick society works: The insane assholes in the FL legislature passed a bill to allow everyone to carry concealed weapons — no permit required — during emergencies like riots, hurricane evacuations, etc. The insane asshole governor will sign it.

    We might get to be the test lab for the NRA’s wet dream of “good guys with guns” — imagine the death toll in Boston if every other blowhard was packing.

  38. 38

    @raven: I am so bummed that Ripper Street has ended. My Sunday morning sucked without my DVR of the Saturday night episode. Now waiting for the new season of “In the Flesh”

  39. 39
    JPL says:

    @Betty Cracker: This is the official B.J. nag, it’s time for a hot shower and a warm drink and then cozy up on the sofa and watch something on the tube. When I was going through my divorce, I watched a lot of foreign films because it forced me to read the subtitles. My mind couldn’t wonder.

  40. 40
    Fuzzy says:

    All these cops were armed, helmeted and bullet proofed because the Patriot Act gave our money to them for that purpose. This is why SWAT teams are called out for apprehending any suspect. This army of wannabe soldiers are totally out of control and have shot many people in calm circumstances and now this report verifies what happens in bad conditions. Defy them and see what happens, fellow citizens.

  41. 41
    raven says:

    @Litlebritdiftrnt: Are they on BBC America? We just get PBS.

  42. 42
    MikeJ says:

    @Belafon:

    Listening to the post analysis, we have a lot of work to do.

    Which is why you practice it now with no actual lives on the line rather than waiting until it really happens. No shame in learning what you need to work on. See if they’ve fixed some of those in six months.

  43. 43
    MikeJ says:

    @chopper:

    hey now, guys. with this bickering we’re losing sight of who the real assholes are – Yankees fans.

    Alright, alright Boston. This jersey that we wear today, it doesn’t say Red Sox, it says Boston…This is our fucking city.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XUQUFm2icyQ

  44. 44
    Betty Cracker says:

    @JPL: That’s a damn good idea. I’ve been meaning to watch “Crouching Tiger / Hidden Dragon” again, and my copy has subtitles. Thanks!

  45. 45
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @e.a.f.:

    Now the chickens so to speak have come home to roost.

    Oh, I recognize this reasoning. And all American victims of terror are effectively “little Eichmanns,” right, Ward Churchill?

  46. 46
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @MikeJ: Yeah, but all that training costs money that is needed for tax cuts.

  47. 47
    ira-NY says:

    e.a.f. :
    Please go to Southie a spew your nonsense. You will learn all about chickens coming home to roost.

  48. 48
    MikeJ says:

    @FlipYrWhig: And Lu Lingzi was killed because of China’s support for the IRA.

  49. 49
    mai naem says:

    I haven”t paid much attention to the Boston stuff after all the stuff of the day. I hate to say this but I’m just not interested. I was listening to Here and Now last week and they had one of the Boston ER trauma surgeons on. He said they hit the wrong city because Boston has one of the best hospital trauma set ups in the country. None of the injured ones who made it to the hospital that day died. Pretty amazing.

  50. 50
    different-church-lady says:

    @the Conster: Damn straight, and nothing pisses me off more than out-of-towners telling us we ought to feel any other way.

  51. 51
    different-church-lady says:

    @e.a.f.: You’re a jackass. E.O.M.

  52. 52
    different-church-lady says:

    It’s disheartening, but not exactly unexpected, to see people take what is basically a technical study of a chaotic situation and try to spin a narrative on top of it.

    Of course mistakes were made — it’s fucking chaos. The purpose of the study is to learn and improve. But in the end two guys with far more murderous intent were apprehended.

  53. 53
    different-church-lady says:

    @Nutella:

    That and the complete shutdown of Watertown and nearby towns were outrageous and disgusting overreactions that should never have happened in a ‘free’ country.

    Right — because when you’ve got two guys who have just killed three people with bombs, a fourth with a gun, and just committed a carjacking racing through your city at high speeds the thing you want to do is tell everyone to just go about their business as though nothing at all dangerous is happening.

    I don’t know where this boilerplate idiocy of the looney left got started, but it is more than tiresome hearing it.

  54. 54
    FlyingToaster says:

    @Nutella: No one was forced from their homes. One home’s basement was searched several times because her basement door didn’t lock. People had their doorbells rung by SWAT teams checking for unsecured premises; a third of the residents were absent (like me) because Patriots Day is school vacation week and we take our grade schoolers away from the insanity that is Marathon Week.

    People were understandably freaked out by guys in body armor ordering them back inside. Even when you get multiple robocalls from Watertown PD, you don’t believe it. A couple of them are traumatized; I think they should be talking to their doctors rather than whining to Fox25.

    Last year, we were at my mom’s for April Vacation, this year we’re at my niece’s. I plan on leaving at 7:00am the Saturday before Patriots Day for the rest of my life.

    I’ve lived in Watertown since 2002, and you are wrong. Please go away.

  55. 55
    Cassidy says:

    @different-church-lady: The images for their narrative of out of control, jack booted thugs as police. Whether the context matches the picture is irrelevant.

  56. 56
    bluefoot says:

    @Nutella: “Complete shutdown”? If so, it was the weirdest definition of shutdown I’ve ever seen. I lived a 5-10 minute walk from the Tsarnaev’s apartment that was being searched by the police. bomb squad, etc. The day of the lockdown, people were out and about (including me), getting coffee, hanging outside, walking their dogs, etc and trying to stay out the way of the LEOs so they could do their jobs.
    My former company was in Watertown, the next parking lot over from where the cops were set up. A *lot* of people were at work, but again, stayed out the way so the LEOs could do their jobs.

    Regarding the report: That area of Watertown is a maze. Unless you know the neighborhood well, there’s no way you can do a truly effective search. I’m not surprised it became chaotic once the non-locals got there.

    There were also a *ridiculous* number of people leaning out of their windows, watching the spectacle. Considering the firepower the police had, that is incredibly stupid. Plus it’s not like the bullets are going to be stopped by something so paltry as the wood and sheetrock wall of a house. I’m truly surprised there weren’t more people hurt.

  57. 57
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @the Conster: Yeah, I’m with you, and the fuckups when they had the brothers cornered are hard to read but I think we need to. If only because only a shithead would believe that you can’t learn from mistakes and make your processes better.

    Also, it’s possible that the counter terrorism and emergency management training we go through is too much “inside the box” because FEMA doesn’t want these kind of chaotic scenes where peers are shouting instructions at peers. That works fine in day to day life but in an emergency you need commanders and a command center. But if you haven’t trained properly for it, it won’t happen. Sadly, the city by city PDs tend to be pretty siloed. I mean, why wouldn’t they be, they’ve got enough to do, right?

    And the Waltham police, well, the residents got the PD they paid for “low taxes! low taxes!” but the entire metro area paid for their fuckups. Greeeeeeat.

  58. 58
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @e.a.f.:

    This is what the British and Irish lived with for a lot of years. A lot of the killing in Great Britain was financed by Americans in Boston. See how they feel about it now. What happened in Boston is a daily occurance in Iraq, Afghanistan and it is the “Boston strong” type crowd who caused it in those countries. Now the chickens so to speak have come home to roost.

    You know what? Fuck you.

  59. 59
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @Litlebritdiftrnt: Good show.
    @raven: Netflix.

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