Investigators ID as many as 2 potential suspects in Boston Marathon bombing


FBI crime scene investigators search a truck left on Boylston Street just past Berkeley Street April 17, 2013 in Boston, Massachusetts. Investigators continue to work the scene of two bomb explosions at the finish line of the marathon that killed 3 people and injured over one hundred more.


Darren McCollester

BOSTON — Federal investigators have images of at least one and possibly two potential suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing, GlobalPost has learned.

The images depict a male dressed in black with a white baseball cap, who was captured on video with a heavy black backpack and seen leaving it where one of the bombs was detonated near the finish line, according to an official knowledgeable of the investigation and who has seen the images.

The potential suspect is also seen to be speaking with another man, who appears to be holding a heavy shoulder bag of some kind, the official said.

The images come from a video surveillance camera on Boylston Street, just across from the sidewalk where the second explosion was detonated Monday, when two back-to-back bombs attacks killed three people and wounded more than 170.

The source said the FBI was circulating the images to law enforcement officials in an intensifying search to bring both men in for questioning, and that it was not clear when the images would be released to the wider public.

More from GlobalPost: When home is the target of terrorism

Federal officials and Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick Wednesday stated publicly and firmly that no suspects had been arrested nor were in custody, statements which flatly contradicted media reports earlier in the day by CNN and others that an arrest had been made.

The apparently erroneous news reports Wednesday of an arrest triggered a rush of media to Boston’s Federal Courthouse, where it was presumed a suspect would be arraigned. Almost simultaneously, a bomb scare forced federal agents to clear the courthouse and the media were pushed away.

Meanwhile, a scheduled press briefing by state and city officials and the heads of the various investigative agencies was first delayed and then canceled.

It was a frenetic and chaotic day amid a massive investigation into the bombing, and one that apparently provided significant progress.

More than 1,000 FBI agents and forensic experts and hundreds more ATF agents, city detectives, state officials and members of the city’s Joint Terrorism Task Force were all working on a sprawling investigation that emanates from a 12-block crime scene believed to be the largest in the state’s history. 

Already, the investigation has uncovered important shards of evidence. They include a top to a pressure cooker and a circuit board, elements that were used to assemble what investigators say appear to have been two crudely fashioned bombs packed with nails and small metal pellets, or BBs, intended to cause mass casualties. Investigators also uncovered a piece of a black nylon backpack, which was believed to have been used to transport the bomb.

A primary focus of the investigation at this point, officials tell GlobalPost, is the construction of a detailed timeline of the hours, minutes and seconds that led up to the blast. Establishing that timeline “second by second” and “frame by frame,” the officials say, requires processing scores of images and video that have been collected. They come from cellphone photos and video shot by spectators and news organizations as well as surveillance camera images from area buildings, including the Lord & Taylor department store on Boylston Street. This process is what yielded the image of the two men now wanted for questioning, the officials say.

Through all of the painstaking aspects of the investigation, a kind of grim silver lining has emerged in the post-9/11 era. This includes the following:

-- Better coordination. In this investigation, Gov. Patrick and Mayor Thomas Menino have both stressed how federal, state and city agencies are working together seamlessly and effectively. That is completely different from the disjointed and uncoordinated inter-agency efforts that critics say contributed to the intelligence failures in the lead-up to the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center.

-- Forensic expertise. Because of the huge number of bombs and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) used in Iraq and Afghanistan, a vast expertise has been established for federal agents in assessing the “signature” of the explosive devices. That is, how the parts used to build the devices and the way they’re assembled can provide a trail to those who are responsible for the attacks.

-- Preparedness and medical expertise in dealing with terrorist attacks. There has been extraordinary preparedness and training for mass casualties in the wake of 9/11. There has also been tremendous medical expertise developed by many area doctors in Iraq and Afghanistan in dealing with blast injuries, particularly wounds to the lower extremities as well as brain trauma from blast waves.

Dr. Michael Zinner, chief surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, one of the many world-class hospitals in Boston, said, “One of the lessons we learn from war is how to treat casualties better. And we’ve learned that there is this golden hour and we were able to be there to treat these people quickly, and were it not for the wars we would not have been as well prepared.”

A video released by the FBI of the two suspects: