Boston Marathon bomb response exposed 'fault lines' in policing, study finds

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Boston Marathon bomb response exposed 'fault lines' in policing, study finds
FILE- In this Oct. 13, 2014 file photo, Ailiana Tsarnaeva, sister of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, departs district court in Boston's South Boston neighborhood. Tsarnaeva has been arrested in New York City for allegedly threatening to bomb a Harlem woman. Police say that she is charged with aggravated harassment for threatening the woman over the phone on Monday, Aug. 25. She was issued an appearance ticket and is due back in court on Sept. 30. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)
FILE - In this Friday, April 19, 2013 file photo provided by the Massachusetts State Police, 19-year-old Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev leans over in a boat at the time of his capture by law enforcement authorities in Watertown, Mass. Tsarnaev has pleaded not guilty in the April 15, 2013, Boston Marathon bombing, which killed three people and injured more than 260 others. His brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, died following a shootout with police. The Boston Marathon bombing has been selected the sports story of the year in an annual vote conducted by The Associated Press. (AP Photo/Massachusetts State Police, Sean Murphy, File)
Graphic shows photos of suspects; locates Watertown and Cambridge, Mass., where Boston Marathon bombing suspects exchanged gunfire and one is dead
This Friday, April 19, 2013 image made available by the Massachusetts State Police shows 19-year-old Boston Marathon bombing suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, hiding inside a boat during a search for him in Watertown, Mass. He was pulled, wounded and bloody, from the boat parked in the backyard of a home in the Greater Boston area. Two U.S. officials say the surviving suspect in the Boston bombings was unarmed when police captured him hiding inside a boat in a neighborhood back yard. Authorities originally said they had exchanged gunfire with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev for more than one hour Friday evening before they were able to subdue him. (AP Photo/Massachusetts State Police)
This still frame from video shows Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev visible through an ambulance after he was captured in Watertown, Mass., Friday, April 19, 2013. A 19-year-old college student wanted in the Boston Marathon bombings was taken into custody Friday evening after a manhunt that left the city virtually paralyzed and his older brother and accomplice dead. (AP Photo/Robert Ray)
FILE - This undated file photo provided by the Middlesex District Attorney's Office shows Massachusetts Institute of Technology Police Officer Sean Collier, 26, of Somerville, Mass., who was shot to death Thursday, April 18, 2013 on the school campus in Cambridge, Mass. Stephen Silva, a friend of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was arrested Tuesday, July 22, 2014, and is believed to have provided the handgun used to kill Collier. (AP Photo/Middlesex District Attorney's Office, File)
In this April 19, 2013, Massachusetts State Police photo, state troopers prepare for the final assault on the boat where Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was hiding in Watertown, Mass. Tsarnaev, 19, was captured later that night. (AP Photo/Massachusetts State Police, Sean Murphy)
In this Friday, April 19, 2013 Massachusetts State Police photo, law enforcement officials converge on the scene near where Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was thought to be hiding in Watertown, Mass. Tsarnaev, was captured later that night, bleeding and hiding in a boat in a nearby backyard. Photos of the Boston Marathon bombing suspect's surrender have been posted on the Boston Magazine website. The additional images, made public made public Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013, were among those released to the magazine last month by a state police photographer. (AP Photo/Massachusetts State Police, Sean Murphy)
Heavily armed police continue to patrol the neighborhoods of Watertown, Mass. Friday, April 19, 2013, as they continue a massive search for one of two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing. A second suspect died in the early morning hours after an encounter with law enforcement. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
A police officer runs with his weapon drawn as he conduct a search for a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings, Friday, April 19, 2013, in Watertown, Mass. Two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing killed an MIT police officer, injured a transit officer in a firefight and threw explosive devices at police during a getaway attempt in a long night of violence that left one of them dead and another still at large Friday, authorities said as the manhunt intensified for a young man described as a dangerous terrorist.(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Officials wearing tactical gear stand near an armored vehicle as they search an apartment building for one of two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing, in Watertown, Mass., Friday, April 19, 2013. Two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing killed an MIT police officer, injured a transit officer in a firefight and threw explosive devices at police during a getaway attempt in a long night of violence that left one of them dead and another still at large Friday, authorities said as the manhunt intensified for a young man described as a dangerous terrorist. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
BOSTON - APRIL 15: Police walk through the evacuated scene at Exeter and Boylston Streets after two explosions went off near the finish line of the 117th Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013. This image was taken at 3:05:12 p.m. (Aaron Tang for The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - APRIL 7: People attend the Boston Marathon memorial exhibition, 'Dear Boston: Messages from the Marathon Memorial,' at the Boston Public Library April 7, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts. Three spectators were killed and more than two hundred sixty injured when two bombs exploded on Marathon Monday, which prompted a massive manhunt for suspects later identified as Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, two brothers from Chechnya, living in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images)
LOWELL, MA - NOVEMBER 9: Kevin Corcoran leans over to kiss his wife, Celeste, during a Tsongas Arena hockey game and an event called Riverhawks Strong to honor victims and first responders of the Boston Marathon bombing. Celeste, who lost both her legs in the attack, was tired after being on her legs more than 12 hours. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
BOSTON - FEBRUARY 12: Boston Marathon bombing survivor Marc Fucarile attended a hearing for suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in US District Court, on Wednesday Feb. 12, 2014, where the judge set trial for Nov. 3. Fucarile declined to speak to media outside the courthouse. (Photo by Pat Greenhouse/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
WATERTOWN, MA - APRIL 7: The home on Franklin Street where Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was found hiding in a boat in the backyard is seen April 7, 2014 in Watertown, Massachusetts. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, along with his deceased brother Tamerlan, are accused of setting off two bombs at the 2013 Boston Marathon finish line that killed three spectators and injured over two hundred and sixty. Following a shootout with police just a few blocks from this home, Tamerlan was run over by his brother while fleeing, prompting a day long manhunt through the streets of Watertown. Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images)
CAMBRIDGE, MA - APRIL 7: A stone memorial honors Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer Sean Collier April 7, 2014 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Collier was killed on the night of April 18, 2013, as he sat in his patrol car in the plaza at the intersection of Vassar and Main Streets, when two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings attempted to steal his weapon. The two men were later identified as Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. (Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images)
LOWELL, MA - NOVEMBER 9: Celeste Corcoran waves to a standing ovation at Tsongas Arena during an event called Riverhawks Strong to honor victims and first responders of the Boston Marathon bombing. Celeste, who lost both her legs in the attack, holds onto her husband, Kevin, as daughter Sydney, rear, looks on. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
BOSTON - APRIL 15: Emergency personnel respond to the scene at Exeter and Boylston Streets after two explosions went off near the finish line of the 117th Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013. This image was taken at 2:57:25 p.m. (Aaron Tang for The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
BOSTON - APRIL 15: Emergency personnel respond to the scene at Exeter and Boylston Streets after two explosions went off near the finish line of the 117th Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013. This image was taken at 2:52:36 p.m. (Aaron Tang for The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
BOSTON - APRIL 15: Emergency personnel respond to the scene at Exeter and Boylston Streets after two explosions went off near the finish line of the 117th Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013. This image was taken at 2:58:34 p.m. (Aaron Tang for The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
BOSTON - APRIL 15: Emergency personnel respond to the scene at Exeter and Boylston Streets after two explosions went off near the finish line of the 117th Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013. This image was taken at 2:52:19 p.m. (Aaron Tang for The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
BOSTON - APRIL 15: Emergency personnel respond to the scene at Exeter and Boylston Streets after two explosions went off near the finish line of the 117th Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013. This image was taken at 2:52:07 p.m. (Aaron Tang for The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
In this magazine cover image released by Wenner Media, Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev appears on the cover of the Aug. 1, 2013 issue of "Rolling Stone." (AP Photo/Wenner Media)
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By Scott Malone

(Reuters) - The massive manhunt for the perpetrators of last year's Boston Marathon bomb attack exposed some "fault lines" in coordinating law enforcement at the federal, state and local levels, according to a study released on Thursday.

Emergency responders racing to a crime scene without waiting for orders might save lives by tending to the wounded, but during the chaotic chase to catch the suspects a few days later, they also risked being shot by police, the Harvard University report found.

The hairiest events after the bombing, which killed three people and injured 264, began three days later when the two ethnic Chechen brothers accused of planting the pressure-cooker bombs at the finish line, shot and killed a university police officer in a failed attempt to steal his gun and flee the city.

The shooting prompted hundreds of local police, as well as law enforcement officials who had traveled from other towns to help with the investigation, to race to Watertown, Massachusetts, where the suspects traded shots with police.

Officers surrounded the suspects, placing police at a high risk of shooting one another, the report found.

"They were incredibly lucky that there weren't a lot of friendly fire casualties," said lead author Herman "Dutch" Leonard, a professor of public management at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

The study was based on interviews with some 100 law enforcement and other public officials who took part in the response.

One officer, Richard Donohue of the transit police, was badly wounded in that gun battle and witnesses told local media that he may have been accidentally shot by a fellow officer. No official report on the shooting has been released.

That incident was not the only case in which possibly overtired officers ran the risk of shooting one another, the report said. The gunbattle ended in the death of one suspect, 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev, while his younger brother Dzhokhar, now 20, managed to elude police.

When the younger brother was found hiding in a drydocked boat the next evening, dozens of police raced to the scene.

One officer on a rooftop fired at Tsarnaev, prompting "a substantial volume of contagious fire" by other police at the scene, the report found.

It noted that contagious gunfire, in which the sound of shots prompts others to fire their weapons, poses a high risk in densely populated areas such as the Watertown suburb of Boston where the younger Tsarnaev was apprehended.

The suspect is now awaiting trial on charges that carry the threat of execution if he is convicted.

Despite problems during the manhunt, the report found that law enforcement officials worked together smoothly on the day of the bomb blasts, evidenced by the fact that most of the casualties, many of whom lost legs, survived despite substantial loss of blood.

That coordinated effort was a result of years of planning and coordination around the marathon, Boston's best-attended sporting event.

The Harvard report suggests that law enforcement officials responding to major security threats take more aggressive steps to establish tactical command, including planning rest shifts so that they are not relying on overtired officers.

The lessons of the response to the Boston bombing could easily apply to future security scares, Leonard said.

"Any significant terrorist activity on the homeland is going to generate a similar ramping up and presence of many different law enforcement agencies," Leonard said.

"This event illustrates how much progress we've made since 9/11 and Katrina in being able to form rapid command structures that are effective," he said. "But we have a lot of work to do in projecting the same philosophy down to operating on the street." (Reporting by Scott Malone; editing by Gunna Dickson)

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