Leading Law Enforcement Authorities Say that Video Provided Eureka Moment in Boston Bombing Manhunt

Law enforcement leaders who directed last year’s Boston Marathon bombing investigation today cited video as the most valuable technology they used to identify the suspects. Federal, state and local law enforcement officials – Richard DesLauriers, former Special Agent in Charge of the Boston Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); Colonel Timothy P. Alben, Superintendent of Massachusetts State Police, and; Edward F. Davis, former Police Commissioner of the City of Boston Police Department – spoke at the GovSec and FOSE events taking place at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C.

Panelists gave the audience a first-hand look at the five-day manhunt that concluded with the capture of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Highlights from their remarks include:

Video Technology – The panelists agreed that video footage was the most beneficial technology and provided the “eureka moment” allowing them to identify the two suspects referred to as “white hat” and “black hat”. Col. Alben of the State Police noted their reliance on cell phone videos taken by spectators at the marathon. “We had an entire team of analysts whose job was to review video files sent in by everyday citizens. It was a very time consuming task,” he said. In addition to videos from spectators, Commissioner Davis said his police force relied on businesses near the bombing site for security video footage. Two days after the bombing, investigators first identified the bombing suspects based on the trove of videos they had compiled.

The Need to Collaborate – Commissioner Davis stressed that close collaboration between local, state and federal law enforcement agencies was essential in the crisis. He cited his longtime working relationships with Special Agent DesLauriers and Colonel Alben as critical to ensuring a rapid response to the bombing. “I knew I had the two guys I could depend on,” said Commissioner Davis said. “When I asked them for tactical support immediately after the explosions, there were no questions and there was no debate. They deployed immediately.”

The Boston “Lock Down” – Panelists said Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick was correct to issue a “shelter in place” order the Friday after the bombing, effectively shutting the city down at the height of the manhunt. “We didn’t know at that time if there was a broader conspiracy,” said Special Agent DesLauriers. “There were so many variables in play. To keep the community safe we had to do it. It was the correct decision.”

Special Agent DesLauriers served as Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Boston Office from 2010 until his retirement in 2013. Commissioner Davis served as head of the Boston Police Department from 2006 until his retirement in 2013. Colonel Alben was sworn in as Superintendent of Massachusetts State Police in 2012.

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