By Georgiana Francisco | Correspondent
Ed Deveau may now be the retired police chief of the Watertown Police Department, but his experiences and those of fellow officers who captured Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in the suburban Massachusetts town are not something he will ever forget.
“No one, not my officers or even I, had any kind of training that would prepare us for something like this, but they will now,” Deveau told an audience of more than 100 who attended his presentation on the manhunt Oct. 26 in Georgian Court University’s Casino Auditorium, Lakewood.
Deveau shared stories and presented a timeline and photos of his police department’s 20-hour search April 19, 2013, for now-convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, at times bringing tears to those in attendance. Four days earlier, Tsarnaev and his brother, Tamerlan, set off two bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three people and injuring hundreds of others. In the days that followed, the area lived in fear as the brothers fled.
Deveau led his team of police officers, state police and federal agencies in their successful effort to apprehend the bomber. Although Deveau led the mission, he made it clear during his speech that the compassion of what he called the “Boston Strong” and the capture in his town was “at all times, a team effort.”
Story of Faith
The Richards family, practicing Catholics, had no idea that just minutes before the blast that would take their son’s life, two young men carrying bombs had come off a side street onto Boylston Street.
After the blast, Deveau said, Bill Richards accompanied his injured wife, Denise, and 7-year-old daughter, who lost a leg, to the hospital in spite of his own wounds from flying shrapnel. He insisted on going back to the area where his 8-year-old son lay dying. “I don’t want my son to be alone,” he told law enforcement.
“Your son is not alone,” he was told. That was because Boston police had draped nearby restaurant tablecloths over the fallen bodies, his son among them, and stood at attention with each body until they could be taken away, Deveau said.
“That was ‘Boston Strong’ at its best,” Deveau said, adding that the Richards family was against the death penalty for Tsarnaev, who was sentenced to death in June 2015.
Courage from God
In an intricate story of dedicated police work, Deveau shared how police who apprehended a stolen Mercedes – which held the two brother bombers – were met with immediate gunfire.
In the early hours of April 19, Watertown police Sgt. John MacLellan responded to a “Shots fired!” radio call for help by Officer Joseph Reynolds, only to be met on arrival with a bullet crashing through his windshield. MacLellan then joined the firefight while driving toward the gunmen to create a diversion. An estimated 200 to 300 rounds of ammunition were fired and several pipe bombs and grenades exploded – sending glass and debris everywhere. Surprisingly, Deveau said, the officers were unaware that the shooters were the suspected Boston Marathon bombers.
Determined to save the lives of his fellow Watertown police officers, off-duty Sgt. Jeffrey J. Pugliese rushed to the location, climbing over fences, Deveau said.
When the shooter’s gun appeared to jam and Pugliese realized he, himself, was out of ammunition, Pugliese, operating purely on instinct, pretended to look as though he were still firing his gun, keeping the bomber at bay, Deveau said. Pugliese then tackled him, and got help from Reynolds and MacLellan.
“They don’t teach you this at the academy,” Deveau said, “but they will now.”
After the attack that left Tamerlan dead, and later that night when an injured Tsarnaev was apprehended hiding in a boat on a trailer, Deveau told his officers they had grabbed a lucky break.
“Luck had nothing to do with it, Chief,” said one of the three officers, a Eucharistic Minister and daily communicant. “It was God who orchestrated everything out there and gave us the courage to do what we did. He was watching out for us.”
The three policemen were honored with the Congressional Badge of Bravery two years after helping end the bombers' reign of terror that also left an MIT policeman dead.