By Dave Rogers
---- — AMESBURY — Civic and business leaders last night listened with rapt attention as Watertown police Chief Edward P. Deveau described how John, Jeff and Joe, three of his officers, exchanged gunfire, ducked pipe bombs and eventually killed one of the two men who allegedly detonated bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon last April, killing three and wounding hundreds.
Filling in for retired Boston police Commissioner Ed Davis at the Amesbury Chamber of Commerce’s annual dinner, this year inside Amesbury Chevrolet, Deveau received a standing ovation both before and after his roughly 20-minute keynote speech.
In great detail, Deveau painted a picture of what it was like for the first three law enforcement officers, Sgt. John MacLellan, Sgt. Jeffrey Pugliese and officer Joe Reynolds, when they confronted Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his younger brother, Dzohkar, four days after they allegedly detonated the two homemade pressure cooker bombs and then tried to flee from the region.
Reynolds was the first to spot the two brothers, hours after they were publicly identified as those responsible for the bombings. At 12:40 a.m., minutes after a black Mercedes SUV was reported carjacked in Cambridge, Reynolds spotted a vehicle matching that description and called the station. Neither Reynolds nor the dispatcher who relayed the information knew the SUV had been stolen minutes after Tamerlan Tsarnaev allegedly executed MIT police officer Sean Collier.
When the SUV pulled over, Tamerlan Tsarnaev got out of the car and began shooting at Reynolds.
“He was going to execute Joe Reynolds like he executed Sean Collier,” Deveau said.
Reynolds had the presence of mind to put his car in reverse and create some distance between himself and the shooter, Deveau said. Moments later, MacLellan arrived at the scene in his SUV and immediately felt a bullet scream by his ear after shattering his windshield. Stinging in pain from the near miss, MacLellan leaped out of his vehicle and let it roll down toward Tamerlan Tsarnaev. As it rolled closer, the brothers began lobbing pipe bombs at the vehicle. Four were tossed at the vehicle, the first blowing out the car’s windows. The second and third were duds, but the fourth one detonated, causing damage to nearby cars and vehicles.
“Here they are in the fight of their lives,” Deveau said.
At the same time, Pugliese was inching closer to the scene, having decided to cut through backyards to avoid detection. Then a much larger explosion, coming from a successfully detonated pressure cooker bomb, lit up the neighborhood and disoriented the officers ever so slightly. What followed was a terrifying gun battle between Pugliese and Tamerlan Tsarnaev at a distance of no more than 20 feet. Pugilese hit Tamerlan Tsarnaev more than once until he ran out of bullets. Tamerlan Tsarnaev too ran out of bullets and was reaching for what might have been another weapon or a pipe bomb when MacLellan, who had expended all his bullets previously, ordered him to freeze, knowing full well his gun was empty too, according to Deveau.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev froze long enough to allow Pugilese to tackle the suspect. With his brother in the hands of police, Dzohkar Tsarnaev jumped back into the SUV and tried to run down the officers. He managed to run over his brother before fleeing the area, but the officers were able to jump out of the way. He was captured later that night after spending hours, bleeding from wounds received during the exchange with police, inside a covered sailboat stored in a backyard.
“I would have traveled much farther to talk about John, Jeff and Joe,” Deveau said, referring to his drive to last night’s dinner.
Deveau ended his speech with a message to the community, saying what happened in Watertown that April night could happen in any community. And that communities should do what they can to support the men and women who sacrifice Little League games, dance recitals and place their lives on the line to protect and serve.
“They need a pat in the back once in a while,” Deveau said.