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

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Before you go close icon
13 PHOTOS
boston marathon
See Gallery
Boston Marathon bomb response exposed 'fault lines' in policing, study finds
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)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE


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)

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.

From Our Partners

13 People Recount Their First Kiss Horror Stories 13 People Recount Their First Kiss Horror Stories
Large Numbers Of Horses Are Being Stuffed Into These Crates For A Despicable Reason Large Numbers Of Horses Are Being Stuffed Into These Crates For A Despicable Reason
Man Suspects His Wife Is Cheating On Him - Then His Daughter Reveals What's Really Going Man Suspects His Wife Is Cheating On Him - Then His Daughter Reveals What's Really Going