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Nashua squad came close to suspect

Sunday News Correspondent

April 21. 2013 12:03AM

NASHUA - The boat where Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was hiding during Friday's massive manhunt was between 100 and 200 yards outside of the search area in Watertown, Mass., where the Nashua Police Department's Special Reaction Team had been deployed to assist local authorities.

Twenty-five police officers from the city - part of the Special Reaction Team and Hazardous Device Unit - went to Watertown on Friday to help locate one of two suspects in the Boston bombings that killed three people and injured nearly 200 on Monday.

"We train for a variety of different things to include home searches, but it is nearly impossible to shut down an entire neighborhood for training," said Lt. Bryan Marshall of the Nashua Police Department.

Nashua police left for Massachusetts about 9:30 a.m. on Friday, and by 11 a.m. had already been assigned to work with the North Eastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council, teaming up to conduct door-to-door searches in what Marshall described as Zone 4 of the hot zone in Watertown.

Using the department's special armored vehicle, Nashua police officers roamed the streets, entering homes on one side of the roadway while NEMLEC searched residences on the opposing side.

In addition to searching homes, city police also canvassed backyards, sheds, garages, crawl spaces, under porches and any other locations that homeowners were concerned about, according to Marshall, who said individual homes could take up to 20 minutes to thoroughly search.

Their search area, he said, was just yards from where the carjacked Mercedes had been dumped and where explosive devices had rattled the area the night before.

The occupants, who were ordered to "shelter in place," were not noticeably traumatized by the incident, but understandably had looks of concern, said Marshall, adding they were mostly pleased to have such a heavy police presence in their neighborhood.

It was a sensitive search because police were unsure whether the suspect was inside any of the homes they were searching, possibly telling the occupants what to say to authorities, explained Marshall.

Many of the residents had heard the gunshots from the night before, and the vehicles damaged by gunfire were still parked on the streets from the earlier shootout, said Marshall.

About a half hour before the second suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, was located by authorities Friday night, Marshall said, Nashua police stopped their searches and headed back to the Massachusetts State Police command center to eat. Their unit was relieved by a separate tactical team, he said.

Throughout the day, Marshall said, his crew was so busy conducting door-to-door searches that it didn't have time to eat or answer texts from concerned family members.

Until they pulled their vehicle into the command center and witnessed the hundreds of media and satellite trucks on scene, the actual gravity of the situation may not have set in, according to Marshall, who described Friday's work as the most memorable in his career.

While getting some food at the command center Friday night, Marshall said, his officers began hearing multiple gunshots over the radio system.

"At that point, we all made a run for our armored vehicles," said Marshall, explaining Boston police and Massachusetts State Police were still out in the hot zone and immediately deployed to the area of the boat where the suspect was spotted.

There were so many vehicles clogging the streets that Marshall said Nashua police had to sit and listen to the capture unfold without being able to assist.

"It is gratifying that it came to a successful conclusion, but it is a little frustrating that he was found about 100 to 200 yards from our search area," said Marshall. "Everybody down there wanted to bring it to a successful conclusion."

Marshall said the Nashua Police Department was glad it was asked to help in Watertown and was eager to lend a hand in the search. He said there were about 1,000 law-enforcement officers throughout Watertown assisting in the manhunt.

His crew was back in Nashua about 10 p.m. on Friday.

Crime, law and justice Public Safety War Nashua

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