The Marathon Bombing: Gunfights, Blasts and a Manhunt Shut Down Boston

One suspect is apparently dead while another is on the run after a night filled with drama, bloodshed and uncertainty

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Matt Rourke / AP

Police officers walk near a crime scene April 19, 2013, in Watertown, Mass. A tense night of police activity that left a university officer dead on campus just days after the Boston Marathon bombings and amid a hunt for two suspects caused officers to converge on a neighborhood outside Boston, where residents heard gunfire and explosions.

Everyone expected the perpetrators of the Boston Marathon bombing to have fled the area soon after the attack. But just hours after the Federal Bureau of Investigation released their photos, the two suspects were apparently tracked to Watertown, a western suburb of Boston, where one was killed and one remains at large. One police officer is dead and another has been badly wounded as authorities mount a massive manhunt to find the remaining “terrorist.” The T subway line, one of the metropolitan area’s main arteries, was shut down while tens of thousands of residents in the affected communities were ordered to stay home. Everyone in Watertown, Newton, Waltham, Belmont, Cambridge and the Allston and Brighton neighborhoods of Boston proper have been told to stay inside with their doors locked.

The Associated Press reported that the two suspects came from Dagestan near Chechnya. The AP said the duo had been living legally in the U.S. for at least a year. TIME has not been able to confirm the allegation.

The dramatic events began Thursday at about 10:30 p.m. when a 7-Eleven minimart in Cambridge was robbed. The suspects in that robbery caught on the 7-Eleven cameras match the descriptions of suspects 1 and 2 in the Boston Marathon bombings sought by the FBI, police said. Soon after, the suspects allegedly shot and killed a Massachusetts Institute of Technology cop and carjacked a Mercedes SUV.

(PHOTOS: Police Manhunt in Watertown)

Police tracked the Mercedes to Watertown, where a shootout ensued. In a dramatic scene just after midnight, dozens of police vehicles streamed out of Boston along Memorial and Storrow Drives, flanking the Charles River, west to Watertown. Police boats were in the water. In the shootout, a Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority police officer was shot and is now in critical condition at Mount Auburn Hospital. Suspect 1 was killed. “During the course of that pursuit, several incendiary devices were discharged from the car at the police officers,” superintendent of the state police Colonel Timothy Alben said. According to the Associated Press, doctors at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center said they treated a man with possible blast injuries and multiple gunshot wounds—though they would not confirm if this was suspect 1.

Witnesses in Watertown reported hearing between one and three loud explosions between 12:15 a.m. and 1:00 a.m. Friday. At least one “lit up the night sky,” says Adam Healy, a behavioral specialist who lives near where the shootout took place. Others heard 20 to 50 gunshots. “It was crazy. It was like bam bam bam bam bam,” says Shawn Bertulli, 28, who lives in Waltham but was visiting a friend in Watertown.

(MORE: CNN Live Blog: Mass Transit Shut Down)

In the hours following the shootout, hundreds of police converged on Watertown, some from as far as Tewksbury, 25 miles away. Most wore flak jackets and carried flashlights. As authorities moved the press back a few blocks from where the shootout took place, an explosion could be heard. “You hear that?” a cop said to the horde of press and onlookers. “That’s why you need to move back. It’s for your own safety.”

A 20-block area of east Watertown around Dexter Avenue and School and Laurel streets has been locked down as police go door to door searching for suspect 2, said Watertown police chief Edward Deveau. Authorities have also released an updated photo of the suspect wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt. “The most important message that we are doing right now is for public safety and for the safety of the people in that neighborhood,” Alben said. “We are asking everyone to shelter in place for the time being, not to leave their homes and if they see something suspicious other than a police officer coming to their door, they should call 911 immediately.”

Bomb squads have been called in to “make safe anything that was discharged from that vehicle,” Alben said. “Some of them went off. Some, we believe, did not.”

(TIME: Boston Marathon Digital Issue)

The suspect at large is believed to be armed and extremely dangerous. The suspects were identified by law enforcement officials and family members as Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, ethnic Chechen brothers from Dagestan, which neighbors Chechnya in southern Russia.  “We believe this to be a terrorist,” Boston police commissioner Ed Davis said. “We believe this to be a man who has come here to kill people. We need to get him into custody.”

MORE: MIT Police Officer Killed in Campus Shooting