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April 20. 2013 3:03AM

Seacoast SWAT team not far from scene of capture

Members of a Seacoast area SWAT team were just two blocks away when they heard the gunfire as authorities surrounded the second Boston Marathon bombing suspect and took him into custody peacefully Friday night.

The Seacoast Emergency Response Team, commonly referred to as a SWAT team, joined the many law enforcement agencies involved in the intense manhunt in Watertown, Mass.

Hampton Police Chief Jamie Sullivan, president of SERT's board of directors, said 19 tactical operators and four command staff from SERT arrived in Watertown just before 4:30 p.m. and had just begin searching a neighborhood when the suspect, 19-year-old Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev, was found hiding in the boat in a backyard not too far away.

"We heard the shots fired a couple of blocks away from where we were," Sullivan said. "We were certainly not in the line of fire, but we heard it all."

The SERT officers, who were brought in to relieve other agencies, maintained their location as the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) zeroed in on Tsarnaev.

"Eventually, after the initial barrage of fire, the perimeter was set up and the HRT moved in," Sullivan said. Sullivan said he was stationed at a command post and listened as the team made contact with Tsarnaev and eventually took him into custody.

The SERT officers know the risks they could face whenever they're deployed in a crisis situation, Sullivan said, adding, "You're absolutely on a heightened state of alert. Obviously it's been a very tragic and frightening week."

The members of SERT are highly trained officers and detectives from 11 Seacoast law enforcement agencies.

The officers are trained to handle critical incidents, including hostage situations, armed barricaded suspects, high risk warrants, searches in wooded areas and other crisis situations.

In his 30 years in law enforcement, Sullivan said he had never been responded to an incident involving so many law enforcement agencies. They included officers from Manchester, Nashua, and New Hampshire State

"We played a very small role in a very huge event and we're glad we were able to help out," Sullivan said.

jschreiber@newstote.com

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