Alleged Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been formally indicted on charges including murder and using weapons of mass destruction in the attack that killed three spectators and injured more than 260 others in twin explosions near the famed race’s finish line on April 15.
The 30-count indictment by a federal grand jury, announced Thursday by federal, state, and country officials, also includes a charge of murder in the shooting death of Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer Sean Collier. Seventeen of the 30 charges against Tsarnaev could bring the death penalty or life in prison.
The bombings, involving backpacks carrying pressure cookers filled with explosives and shrapnel set to detonate seconds apart, allegedly were planned and carried out by Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
Tamerlan died after a shootout with police four days after the bombing. The next evening, Dzhokhar was found wounded and hiding out in a covered sailboat parked behind a house in nearby Watertown, Mass.
Among the evidence prosecutors provided Thursday was the note Dzhokhar wrote on the inside of the boat, which hinted at the two brothers’ motivation:
“I don’t like killing innocent people.... The U.S. Government is killing our innocent civilians…. I can't stand to see such evil go unpunished…. We Muslims are one body, you hurt one you hurt us all.... Stop killing our innocent people, we will stop.”
At some point, older brother Tamerlan gravitated toward radical Islam. In 2012, he went to Russia for six months, spending most of the time in the North Caucasus.
According to the 74-page indictment, the brothers obtained eight pounds of explosives from 48 mortars they purchased from a fireworks store in New Hampshire; over the Internet, they ordered electronic devices to detonate the bombs; while they were planning their attack, they practiced firing 9mm pistols at a firing range.
In addition to the bombs they allegedly detonated at the Boston Marathon finish line, the brothers built another five bombs – referred to as “improvised explosive devices,” or IEDs – four of which they used in their later battle with police. Such bombs, the indictment says, were “designed to shred skin, shatter bone and cause extreme pain and suffering, as well as death.” (Of the many people injured in Boston, about three dozen lost limbs.)
Specifically, the surviving Tsarnaev, a 19 year-old US citizen, is charged with “use of a weapon of mass destruction resulting in death … bombing of a place of public use resulting in death … malicious destruction of property resulting in death … use of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence … use of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence causing death … carjacking resulting in serious bodily injury … interference with commerce by threats or violence … and aiding and abetting.”
The carjacking allegedly happened four days after the Boston bombing when the Tsarnaevs forced the driver of a Mercedes to drive them to a gas station, robbing him of $800. The driver escaped, after which the brothers drove to Watertown, where they were confronted by police.
Tamerlan was wounded in the exchange of gunfire, then run over when Dzhokhar tried to escape in the Mercedes. He later died of his injuries. One of the police officers was seriously injured when he was hit by the car.
Leading up to the bombing, according to the indictment, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev downloaded extremist Islamic propaganda, including a book that “glorifies martyrdom in the service of violent Jihad.”
In the aftermath of the attack and Dzhokhar’s arrest, it was reported that Russian authorities had warned their US counterparts about Tamerlan after his trip to Russia. The FBI has been criticized for not alerting Boston police of the brothers’ possible connection to Islamic terrorism.
At a press conference Thursday, US Attorney Carmen Ortiz said she has met with some of the wounded as well as with the families of those killed in the bombing.
“Their strength is extraordinary, and we will do everything that we can to pursue justice not only on their behalf, but on the behalf of all us,’’ Ms. Ortiz said.
Tsarnaev is scheduled to be arraigned on July 10 in US District Court in Boston.