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Dzhokhar Tsarnaev indicted in Boston Marathon bombings

A federal grand jury indictment charges Dzhokhar Tsarnaev with 30 counts, including detonating a weapon of mass destruction resulting in deaths.

June 27, 2013|By Richard A. Serrano, Washington Bureau
  • The parents of one of those killed in the Boston Marathon bombings, Richard and Patricia Campbell, walk together after visiting a makeshift memorial for the victims in Copley Square shortly before it was cleared away. A permanent memorial is in the works.
The parents of one of those killed in the Boston Marathon bombings, Richard… (CJ Gunther / European Pressphoto…)

WASHINGTON — A federal grand jury in Boston indicted Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on Thursday in the Boston Marathon bombings, charging that he and his brother were inspired by Al Qaeda propaganda and believed the blasts that killed three people and injured more than 260 others would avenge U.S. activities overseas.

The 30-count indictment charged the Chechen immigrant and naturalized U.S. citizen with detonating a weapon of mass destruction resulting in deaths. It said he scrawled what amounted to a confession while hiding in a drydocked boat before his capture in Watertown, Mass., four days after the April 15 bombings.

"I don't like killing innocent people," Tsarnaev, 19, wrote in a series of notes on the boat's inside wall and beams, according to the indictment. But, he continued, "the U.S. Government is killing our innocent civilians…. I can't stand to see such evil go unpunished."

"We Muslims are one body, you hurt one you hurt us all," he wrote.

"Now I don't like killing innocent people it is forbidden in Islam but due to said [illegible] it is allowed," another note said.

"Stop killing our innocent people and we will stop," he also wrote.

The indictment alleged that Tsarnaev and his 26-year-old brother, Tamerlan, designed the two bombs to "shred skin, shatter bone and cause extreme pain and suffering, as well as death." Other charges included bombing a public place and malicious destruction of property. Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed during a police pursuit hours before Dzhokhar was seized.

Seventeen of the 30 counts could bring a sentence of death or life in prison.

Defense attorneys may argue that Tsarnaev was a misguided teenager under the spell of his older brother.

Tsarnaev was also charged in state court Thursday with killing Sean Collier, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer gunned down as the brothers allegedly tried to steal his service weapon while attempting to flee the Boston area.

Unlike the federal government, Massachusetts does not have the death penalty, so it seemed likely the federal case would go first.

"All signs point to a capital prosecution of Tsarnaev by the feds," said Richard Broughton, a former Justice Department criminal division official who now teaches at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law.

Tsarnaev, who was seriously wounded by police during the manhunt, did not enter a plea to the charges in the indictment. He is being housed at a federal medical center for prisoners in Devens, Mass., and is scheduled to be arraigned July 10.

His father, Anzor Tsarnaev, speaking Thursday by phone from Makhachkala, Russia, defended the two brothers.

"All I can say is my sons were innocent and they were simply set up," he said. "Nothing will ever make me believe my sons could have done that ugly crime."

The 74-page federal indictment laid out new government evidence and provided this scenario:

The Tsarnaev brothers began planning the bombing in February, and were encouraged after Dzhokhar downloaded Islamist militant texts, including "The Slicing Sword" and "Defense of the Muslim Lands, the First Obligation after Imam."

The writings called for violence against enemies of Islam and glorified martyrdom in the service of jihad, or holy war.

The writings called for violence against enemies of Islam and glorified martyrdom in the service of jihad, or holy war. Some were written by Abdullah Azzam, the so-called Father of Global Jihad, and Anwar Awlaki, the American citizen who was an Al Qaeda propagandist until his death in a 2011 drone strike in Yemen.

Inspire magazine provided the brothers with detailed instructions on building homemade bombs with pressure cookers or sections of pipe, explosive powder from fireworks, and shrapnel.

On Feb. 6, Tamerlan purchased 48 mortar shells containing about 80 pounds of low-explosive powder from Phantom Fireworks in Seabrook, N.H.

On March 20, the brothers took target practice with two rented 9-millimeter handguns and 200 rounds of ammunition at a firing range in Manchester, N.H.

On April 5, Tamerlan placed an online order for electronic components adaptable for homemade bombs, and they were mailed to the brothers' home in Cambridge, Mass.

Nine days later, Dzhokhar opened a prepaid cellphone account. The next day, April 15, the brothers placed their bombs about a block and a half from each other near the finish line, the indictment alleges. A minute before the first explosion, Dzhokhar used his prepaid cellphone to call Tamerlan. Seconds later, Tamerlan detonated the first bomb. Seconds after that, Dzhokhar detonated his.

Three days later, after their photographs were made public, the brothers "armed themselves with five IEDs [improvised explosive devices], a Ruger P95 9mm semiautomatic handgun, ammunition for the Ruger and a hunting knife, and drove in their Honda Civic to MIT," the indictment alleges. Officer Collier was shot once in the head at close range.

They carjacked a motorist and his 2013 Mercedes, the indictment continues, and "indicated that they intended to drive his vehicle to Manhattan." First they stopped at a Bank of America and used the motorist's ATM card to withdraw $800. Their captive escaped and called police, and officers responded.

The Tsarnaevs fired at the police and tossed four of the homemade bombs, the indictment alleges. Tamerlan was "tackled" by three Watertown officers. Dzhokhar drove the Mercedes "directly" at them and "barely missed" one officer trying to drag Tamerlan to safety, it says. Instead, Dzhokhar ran over his brother, "seriously injuring him and contributing to his death."

Dzhokhar sped away, the indictment says, ditched the car, then "smashed both his cellphones and hid in the drydocked boat in a Watertown backyard until he was captured by police."

richard.serrano@latimes.com

Times staff writer Sergei L. Loiko in Moscow contributed to this report.

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