Watertown Lockdown: Neighborhood Feels Like ‘War Zone’ During Hunt For Suspect

Military vehicles and police cars have taken over Watertown in a search for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Photo via Keith Richardson

Photo via Keith Richardson

Keith Richardson’s neighborhood is like a war zone.

The Watertown resident lives in the midst of the cordoned off area that police and military officials are scouring in an effort to locate Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who has been on the loose since late Thursday night.

Dzhokhar and his older brother Tamerlan took authorities on a wild chase from Cambridge to Watertown, after allegedly shooting MIT police officer Sean Collier to death.

The car chase, during which explosives were thrown by the suspects from the vehicle, ended in Watertown, where a number of explosions were heard, as were 80-100 gunshots. “I was asleep and I heard all of these police officers outside,” says Richardson. “I didn’t know what was going on, but then we heard pop, pop, pop, pop … like rapid fire.”

Richardson says he went to his back porch with his roommates where they saw a “parade” of police cars. They heard the shots, and soon after, they heard a loud explosion and saw a “puff” of smoke.

During the shootout with police, Tamerlan was hit and later pronounced dead by officials. But his younger brother is still out there, and the search for the suspect has kept Watertown, and many surrounding cities and towns, on lockdown.

“We know what an inconvenience it is in Watertown … but the stay indoor request continues for the time being. There are continuing developments in the investigation … but it is important folks remain indoors and keep the doors locked, and not open the doors unless there is an [officer on the other side],” Governor Deval Patrick said during a press conference Friday afternoon.

Since the shootout, hundreds of local and federal officials have spent hours marching through the neighborhood, going door-to-door and entering peoples’ homes, including Richardson’s. “They went through our trashcans, went in our closets, into our basement,” says Richardson. Three SWAT team members and a Watertown Police officer entered his home during their search for the suspect.

“The basically are going house to house and combing the street,” says Richardson. “They have been checking outside and poking guns in the bushes.”

Watertown resident Joe Boyle, who lives just outside the parameters being checked by authorities, says he stayed up all night after hearing the gunshots and explosions. “We heard two booms and a bunch of shots right before we were going to bed [around 1 a.m.] … we immediately looked on Twitter and saw that it was a crazy situation,” he says. “This morning they put Watertown on lockdown, and since then, it’s been eerily quiet outside. It’s crazy— I have [lots of] friends within about two blocks of the shootout. Most of [my wife’s] family lives right there too. Basically, right now it just feels like a war zone … Black Hawk helicopters flying around, and the streets are just empty.”

That feeling will remain in place, according to officials, until Dzhokhar is captured.

“We need some more time. You have to stay in your homes, stay in place, and we still have some work to do. Even after we clear the area, there is a major crime scene there and it will take some time,” said Watertown Police Chief Edward Deveau during the press conference.