Rabbi Howard Berman of Central Reform Temple participates in an interfaith… (Kevork Djansezian, Getty…)
BOSTON — As the investigation into the Boston Marathon bombing continued Sunday, family members prepared to bury the victims, and hundreds of stunned and sorrowful residents prayed together for the dead and wounded and worked to reclaim the streets where the violence occurred a week ago.
Federal officials had yet to file charges against 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was captured Friday and remains in serious condition under heavy guard at Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. He was shot in the neck and, at least for a while, was intubated, making it impossible for him to speak with agents.
Tsarnaev and his 26-year-old brother, Tamerlan, who was killed during the massive manhunt, are the only suspects in the bombing at the marathon’s finish line, which killed three people, wounded 170 others and paralyzed this major metropolitan region.
Fifty-two bombing victims remained hospitalized Sunday, 17 of them in critical condition, officials said. A transit police officer shot and wounded in pursuit of the suspects had to be resuscitated after his heart stopped and he lost all of his own blood, but doctors and relatives on Sunday said he was emerging from sedation and was expected to recover.
The Tsarnaev brothers are ethnic Chechens who came to the United States seeking refugee status with their family about a decade ago. Questions continued to swirl about the young men’s motives, whether they acted alone, whether they were planning more attacks and whether the FBI did enough to investigate the older brother after he was flagged as a possible Islamic radical.
Tamerlan called his mother Thursday morning, just hours before his death in a shootout with police, and told her he had received a call from the FBI, she said.
“He would call me every day from America in the last days,” Zubeidat Tsarnaev said Sunday in a telephone interview with The Times from her home in the Russian republic of Dagestan. “During our last conversation on the morning [before the shootout], he was especially touching and tender and alarmed at the same time.”
Her son, she said, told her that he “got a private phone call” from the FBI. Agents told him that he was “under suspicion and should come see them.”
“ ‘If you need me, you will find me,’ he said, and hung up,” she recounted, beginning to sob. “You know the FBI followed him for several years, and when he got back from Dagestan last year, they called him and asked him what was the purpose of his visit to his homeland.”
The FBI has acknowledged that it interviewed Tamerlan in early 2011 after a foreign government, which law enforcement officials say was Russia, raised concerns about whether he had ties to extremist organizations.
The Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said Sunday that the FBI did “a very thorough job” vetting Tamerlan after questions were raised about his possible ties to radical Islamists.
Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), a former FBI agent who has not hesitated to criticize the bureau and Obama administration on counter-terrorism issues, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the FBI had examined Tamerlan’s “digital footprints,” conducted all the database checks at its disposal and interviewed him. Rogers said that no evidence emerged to justify further scrutiny.
Brad Garrett, a former FBI agent, said on ABC’s “This Week” that merely visiting extremist websites would not merit an FBI investigation. “There are hundreds of thousands of young adults in this country that visit extremist Islamic websites,” he said. “So the question is what line you draw.”
And Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, on a plane from Washington to Tel Aviv on Sunday morning, told reporters that he had seen no evidence of links between the Tsarnaev brothers and organized terrorist organizations, although he emphasized that the investigation was continuing.
Reports have circulated that Tamerlan may have been angry because his citizenship application was denied, but a law enforcement official said Sunday that it was still under review at the time of his death.
Tamerlan applied for citizenship about six months ago, the official said, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services was aware he had been charged with domestic violence against a girlfriend and was interviewed by the FBI in 2011. It’s unclear what he was told about his prospects for citizenship.
Tamerlan was a permanent resident and held a Russian passport. His younger brother became a U.S. citizen on Sept. 11, 2012.