Watertown Family Describes Minutes Leading to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s Arrest

WATERTOWN, Mass. (A.W.)—There was a heavy police and military presence in Watertown on Fri., April 19, as police searched for 19-year-old Dzokhar Tsarnaev. The suspect, a resident of Cambridge, had gone on a violent rampage the night of April 18, together with his 26-year-old brother Tamerlan. After gunning down an MIT police officer and seriously wounding a transit police officer, the brothers carjacked an SUV and drove to Watertown. An exchange of gunfire near the Weekly offices ensued between police and the two suspects, during which Tamerlane was shot and killed. The brothers, who are reportedly ethnic Chechens, were suspects in the April 15 Boston Marathon bombings that took the lives of 3 and injured over 160 others.

A SWAT team prepares to conduct door to door searches across the street from Baikar Association. (Photo by Nanore Barsoumian, The Armenian Weekly)
A SWAT team prepares to conduct door to door searches across the street from Baikar Association. (Photo by Nanore Barsoumian, The Armenian Weekly)

Dzokhar Tsarnaev escaped that exchange with police, and remained at large throughout most of the day. As SWAT teams conducted door-to-door searches in a 20-block radius in Watertown, authorities advised residents to stay indoors. Businesses remained closed and streets were eerily deserted while police cruisers, bomb squads, armored vehicles whizzed through the streets, and black hawks hovered overhead. At around 8:45 p.m. on April 19, the manhunt for Tsarnaev came to an end when he was found hiding in a boat behind a house on Franklin St.

Emmanuel Der Torossian and his daughter Julie, 13, whose back porch overlooks Franklin St., ventured into the streets for a stroll soon after the police lifted the curfew in the neighborhood at 6 p.m. Meanwhile, a neighbor spotted a body in a boat behind his house and notified the police. “The police came running through. They told everyone to get off the streets and to go into their homes, but we couldn’t go home… [the police] stopped us from going back,” Emmanuel told the Weekly that night, as police officers worked to apprehend the suspect. The police blocked off the street, preventing the Der Torossians from returning home. Officers evacuated the neighborhood, escorting Emmanuel and Julie to another street, where they waited anxiously for hours. In the midst of the chaos, Emmanuel’s wife Marina and son Joey were taken out of their home and onto a different street.

That part of town, added Emmanuel, is populated mostly by Armenians. “It’s a quiet area and so it’s easy to hide. No one would suspect something like this. He was behind my house this whole time,” said Julie, anxiously looking in the direction of the flashing blue lights down the street. Minutes later, the family was reunited, and together saw the end to an unnerving ordeal.

Marina had a different story to tell. With a father, 83, and a brother in Aleppo, Syria—the site of an escalating human rights crisis—Marina has long been fearing for their safety. When her sister called her on Marathon Monday, asking if she had heard about the bombs, Marina thought her worse fears had come true.

“I thought she meant my father’s apartment in Aleppo had been hit by a bomb. I hadn’t been following the news. My legs got week, until she told me that she was talking about Boston. I turned to the news on TV and couldn’t believe my eyes… All day I was like a zombie,” Marina told the Weekly.

The Der Torossian family, moments after being reunited (Photo by Aaron Spagnolo, The Armenian Weekly)
The Der Torossian family, moments after being reunited (Photo by Aaron Spagnolo, The Armenian Weekly)

Late on April 18, she heard gunshots, and saw police officers searching her driveway. That night, she and her kids did not sleep. They didn’t the following day, either. Marina was about to leave her house when she saw soldiers rushing down her street towards her house. Her neighbor informed her that the suspect had been located one street over. Marina picked up her phone and called her husband.

“I was on the phone with my husband, when suddenly there were gunshots. I lay flat on the ground and I made my son do the same. I did not know where the gunshots were coming from. Two minutes later there were knocks on our door. There were officers. They told us to leave the house immediately. I grabbed what was there, a pair of snow-boots and a heavy winter coat, and ran outside,” said Marina. The officers then used their back porch as a perch to watch the suspect’s movements.

“My back porch overlooks Franklin St., and I could see the officers advancing. There were five officers behind our house. There were numerous officers on Franklin St., and I couldn’t find my husband and daughter. I was shaking, my entire body was shaking,” she said, adding, “I hope today brings an end to this.”

After hours of being under lockdown, hundreds of Watertown residents came out of their homes. Some cheered, others thanked police officers, and many waived American flags. Tsarnaev was taken to a Boston hospital, and reportedly is in serious but stable condition.

A SWAT team conducts door to door searches. (Photo by Nanore Barsoumian, The Armenian Weekly)
A SWAT team conducts door to door searches. (Photo by Nanore Barsoumian, The Armenian Weekly)
A SWAT team arrives at the location of their next searches, (Photo by Nanore Barsoumian, The Armenian Weekly)
An armored vehicle transporting a SWAT team (Photo by Nanore Barsoumian, The Armenian Weekly)

Nanore Barsoumian

Nanore Barsoumian was the editor of the Armenian Weekly from 2014 to 2016. She served as assistant editor of the Armenian Weekly from 2010 to 2014. Her writings focus on human rights, politics, poverty, and environmental and gender issues. She has reported from Armenia, Nagorno-Karabagh, Javakhk and Turkey. She earned her B.A. degree in Political Science and English and her M.A. in Conflict Resolution from the University of Massachusetts (Boston).


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  1. There was nothing in the article about the motives of the two brothers for sowing carnage and bloodshed. However, it was learned from the news that the two were Islamic Jihadists from Chechnia. While we should be careful not to blame the Moslem citizens for the acts of a small group of extremists, it is time the governments and people of the world woke up to the threat of Islamic Jihadism to our civilization. For the Jihadists anyone, any gropup of people of whatever faith, race, nationality or even age, who is not with them, is a legitimate target, anywhere, anytime.

  2. Thank you all for this excellent story,
    Der Torossians & Nanore & Friends.

    Now stay safe.
    Pray for peace here & in Syria & everywhere.
    Dare to struggle. Dare to win.
    Take it easy. But take it.


  3. Dear DerTorrosian family.. glad that you’re all safe… as ex-Bostonians and ex-Watertownians us both (my wife and I) were watching so intensely as the rest of the World… could not believe this was happening in our beloved Boston city of Watertown.. God bless all law enforcement agencies and to the city of Boston for ending this bad chapter so quickly.. We love you all..

  4. Thanks, Nanore.for this close to the action reporting. Stay safe and continue the fine job you are doing at our beloved Armenian Weekly.

    I did not hear one word on national cable TV about the heavy presence of Armenians in Watertown.Perhaps it is just as well.

    Serpouhie from Keghi

  5. What is sad here is that Turkey has been the number 1 sponser of the Chechan terrorists. Many chechan terrorist leaders are based in Turkey. During the Beslan school siege, the terrorists leader was based in Istambul was giving instructions to the Chechan terrorists who killed the 300 poor Russian Children at the Beslan school. The Azeris are also major allies of the Chechan terrorists. That is a major reason why Russia tries to please the Azeris because weapons often go across the Azeri border to Dagestan, Checnhya or Inguishetia. It is interesting that one of the Chechan terrorist leaders fought on the side of the Azeris but apparently withdrew. National Security advisor Brezkinski runs an organization that helps the Chechan terrorists and and interestingly enough, he also works for the Azeris too.

  6. And to add insult to injury the uncle living in Maryland claims that an Armenian living in the Boston area who had converted to Islam had brainwashed the elder brother! Watch minutes 5 to 8 of the following interview with CNN:

    And then watch another interview with the Today show…

    Anyone seen these clips?

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