When the search for the Boston bombing suspects comes to your neighborhood


Credit: Getty Images

The first call came at 2:38 a.m., which I missed. Caller ID said “Watertown Emergency.” The second came a few minutes later; it was a robocall from the chief of police warning us of an “active incident” in East Watertown, telling folks to stay at home and not open the door for anyone not in a uniform.

Try to sleep after that. A quick check of Twitter showed there had been a shootout and possible explosions in East Watertown and that the suspects were also involved in the shooting of an MIT campus police officer late Thursday night. The officer died.

Shootings In Cambridge, Watertown Draw Massive Police Response

I live in Watertown, a town just west of Boston where overnight police have converged in their hunt for the Boston Marathon bombers. The town —  and actually the entire metropolitan area including Boston, Cambridge, Newton, and Waltham — is now in full lockdown. My house is barely a mile from what appears to be a paramilitary operation but I can hear and see nothing of it. Nor did I hear the gunfire and explosions that rocked East Watertown in the early morning hours, and which neighbors captured on cell phone video.

In the hours after the robo-call, there was the usual flurry of information and misinformation on Twitter as well as the TV stations — one of the suspects was erroneously identified on Reddit and other sites as missing Brown University student Sunil Tripathi. One of the local TV outlets, after spending a half hour rehashing what had been reported and misreported by others, then dropped the feed of the State Police’s statement during the night. Mind boggling.

Folks quickly turned to police scanner apps to get the lowdown. (Ustream then picked up another app here.) That sparked a debate on just how responsible that is.

Finding out what happened required triangulation — as one Twitter correspondent put it, cops on the scanners are having conversations, they don’t know what’s going on either.

Reports were all over the map. Both suspects of the Marathon bombing were involved; both were killed; one was captured, one was killed; the reality emerging this morning is that one suspect, 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was dead; the other, his 19-year-old brother Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was at large wearing a suicide vest. Or not. The latter appears to be suspect number 2 (white hat guy) in the Boston Marathon bombings.

What this shows is that proximity to an event means nothing in terms of accuracy unless you are an actual eyewitness. The information I had a mile away was available to everyone.

The lockdown continues.

Photos courtesy Getty Images.


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