Security video may prove key to finding Boston Marathon bomber
by David Montgomery and Marc Fisher
BOSTON — The daunting task of sifting through thousands of images of the Boston Marathon bombing site in search of a culprit telescoped to a single video from a Lord & Taylor security camera Wednesday.
The discovery of video of a man who wore a large backpack to the finish line area and then dropped the package there raised hopes for an imminent breakthrough in the case, setting off a media frenzy and insistent statements from authorities that no arrest has been made. A Boston city official said the video is of "special interest" to investigators.
The second full day of the investigation into the attack that killed three people and injured at least 176 brought jitters, rumors and the hope that investigators had made important progress. Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick said that although the probe is "making some progress, ... it's going to be slow, it's going to be methodical."
Boston's federal courthouse, where hundreds had gathered in response to false reports of an arrest, was briefly evacuated because of a bomb threat. Officials also evacuated a Boston hospital, Brigham and Women's, and Oklahoma City's City Hall because of suspicious vehicles outside. No explosives were found in those cases.
In Boston, many of the injured were released from hospitals. At Brigham and Women's, which initially treated 35 people, only 11 were still hospitalized Wednesday evening, four of them in critical condition.
And Boston University released the name of a previously unidentified woman who was killed in the blast. Lu Lingzi, a graduate student in math and statistics at the university and a Chinese national, was watching the race with friends when the bombs blew up.
The White House announced that President Barack Obama will be joined by his wife, Michelle, at an interfaith memorial ceremony in Boston on Thursday.
"The way that the people of Boston and the city of Boston responded reminds us — and reminds the world
Wednesday's whirlpool of reports demonstrated the extraordinary promise and power that new technologies bring to criminal investigations, but also the risk and unreasonable expectations that permeate such probes. When federal authorities asked the public for help Monday, they received thousands of video clips and still images of the bomb site.
Some people, empowered by smartphones and ever more sophisticated technology, didn't leave the detective work to the professionals. They joined forces on sites such as Reddit.com to examine crowd pictures, searching for — and then virally distributing — image of backpacks that resembled the shredded bag in photos the FBI released Tuesday.
Black backpacks turn out to be ubiquitous. When five of them were found in a single photo of the crowd on Boylston Street, the search drew criticism from readers worried that innocent people could be harmed by being identified as suspicious.
Others questioned whether black backpacks were even the most important lead, recalling the search for white box trucks that steered investigators astray in the Washington sniper case a decade ago.
At midday, news organizations such as CNN and The Associated Press reported that investigators had identified a suspect or made an arrest, leading the FBI to issue an unusual appeal: "Contrary to widespread reporting, there have been no arrests made in connection with the Boston Marathon attack. ... Since these stories often have unintended consequences, we ask the media, particularly at this early stage of the investigation, to exercise caution and attempt to verify information through appropriate official channels before reporting."
CNN said it "had three credible sources on both local and federal levels" for its reports. "As soon as our sources came to us with new information, we adjusted our reporting."
In Boston, police barricades still ringed a 12-block area around the finish line, guarded by city police and the Massachusetts National Guard.
Doug Silkwood, a runner wearing his official marathon jacket, stopped at the barricade and recalled how he had expected his first Boston Marathon to end with "hundreds of thousands of people having a great time." The bombings dashed all that, said Silkwood, 47, an engineer from San Jose, Calif.:
"It's probably easier to protect a Boston Celtics game than an open event like the marathon," but he said he plans to return next year.
At Boston Medical Center, Jenny Chung, a 35-year-old teacher, was released at midday, less than 48 hours after shrapnel was blown into her chest, 2 inches from her heart.
She wore an honorary marathon finisher's medal and carried a teddy bear that relatives had sent her. The medal was a gift from a marathon volunteer. Chung did not run the race but was a spectator, there to watch a friend whose run ended prematurely.
Chung had been poised to video her friend's triumphant finish when she was knocked to the ground. She felt little pain as she and her friends hurried away.
Only when she got to a friend's apartment did she see blood oozing from her chest. She went to the hospital, where doctors operated to remove the fragment. Investigators collected all her clothing, including her sneakers, for possible clues, she said.
At the finish line, Chung had stood with her runner friend's boyfriend, who held a half dozen yellow helium balloons. Shrapnel from the blast cut open the boyfriend's calf, and popped some of the balloons. The rest slipped from his grasp as he fell. In video of the scene, a few yellow balloons drift upward, above the carnage.
“Find the man who saved my life,” teenage Boston survivor searching for her on-site hero
by Caitlin McBride
17-year-old Sydney Corcoran wants to find thank ‘Matt', for saving her life
The survivors of the Boston marathon bombings are now hunting for the good samaritans who saved their lives. After the initial blasts, kind-hearted spectactors, some with medical training, and some without, rushed to the aid of the injured.
Sydney Corcoran, a 17-year-old high school student severely injured her leg as a result of the blast, and immediately after surgery, requested that her family search for a man only known by his first name, ‘Matt', who helped in her most desperate time of need. Despite suffering massive blood loss, she is expected to recover.
Sydney is now just one of the many survivors looking for those many individuals who put their own lives at risk in order to help the wounded. Her mother, Celeste, however, endured far more serious injuries - she tragically lost both of her legs.
The Corcorans had attended the race along with several other family members in order to cheer on Celeste's sister, Carmen, who was running the marathon for the first time.
And while Celeste's life will never be the same again, when she gained consciousness following surgery, she said she simply regretted not being able to see her sister cross the finish line.
“She's a strong and amazing woman,” Carmen said of her sister.. “We're lucky to have her.”
“Celeste's life is going to be very different. She has a long rehabilitation ahead of her.”
FBI: Miss. man arrested, accused of poisoning Washington letters
by Holbrook Mohr
OXFORD, Miss. — A Mississippi man was arrested Wednesday, accused of sending letters to President Barack Obama and a senator that tested positive for the poisonous ricin and set the nation's capital on edge a day after the Boston Marathon bombings.
FBI Special Agent in Charge Daniel McMullen said Paul Kevin Curtis, 45, was arrested at 5:15 p.m. at his apartment in Corinth, near the Tennessee state line about 100 miles east of Memphis. It wasn't immediately known where he was being held.
Authorities still waited for definitive tests on the letters to Obama and Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss. Preliminary field tests can often show false positives for ricin. The letters were intercepted before reaching the White House or Senate.
An FBI intelligence bulletin obtained by The Associated Press said those two letters were postmarked Memphis, Tenn.
Both letters said: "To see a wrong and not expose it, is to become a silent partner to its continuance." Both were signed, "I am KC and I approve this message."
As authorities scurried to investigate three questionable packages discovered in Senate office buildings, reports of suspicious items also came in from at least three senators' offices in their home states.
Sen. Carl Levin said a staff member at his Saginaw, Mich., office would spend the night in a hospital as a precaution after discovering a suspicious letter. The staff member had no symptoms, Levin said in a statement. He expected to learn preliminary results of tests on the letter by Thursday.
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., said suspicious letters at his Phoenix office had been cleared with nothing dangerous found. A package at Sen. John Cornyn's Dallas-area office also was declared harmless, a fire department spokesman said.
All three packages in the Capitol complex turned out to be safe, Capitol police spokeswoman Makema Turner said late Wednesday. But a man was still being questioned after being stopped in connection with the packages, she said.
All the activity came as tensions were high in Washington and across the country following Monday's bombings at the Boston Marathon that killed three people and injured more than 170. The FBI said there was no indication of a connection between the letters and the bombing. The letters to Obama and Wicker were postmarked April 8, before the marathon.
Obama's press secretary, Jay Carney, said mail sent to the White House is screened at a remote site for the safety of the recipients and the general public. He declined to comment on the significance of the preliminary ricin result, referring questions to the FBI.
Capitol Police swiftly ramped up security, and lawmakers and staff were cautioned away from some parts of the Hill complex. After hours of jangled nerves, officials signaled it was safe to move throughout the area and people settled back to normal, if watchful, activity.
Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terrance Gainer said that an individual who was responsible for simultaneous suspicious-package incidents in the Hart and Russell Senate office buildings on Tuesday was detained and released on Wednesday. The packages were not hazardous.
Gainer said the man was "not particularly harmful, although terribly disruptive."
At a House hearing, Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe noted there had been ricin alerts since the notorious 2001 anthrax mailings and procedures are in place to protect postal employees and help track down culprits.
"Over the course of years we've had some situations where there have been ricin scares," Donahoe said. "Until this date, there's never been any actually proved that have gone through the system."
Even during the flurry of concern, normal business continued across most of the Capitol and its office buildings, with tour groups passing through and visitors streaming in and out of Wicker's office.
Amy Keough of Stow, Mass., and her family were searching for an open entrance to the Russell Senate Office building and walked by a U.S. Capitol Police hazardous materials vehicle. The Keoughs had been visiting Washington for several days, but Monday's marathon bombing was on their minds.
"We don't know really what it is that's going on," Keough said. "We're from Massachusetts, so right now anything is possible, with all the events in Boston."
Supreme Court rules sobriety blood tests require warrants
In Missouri vs. McNeely, justices uphold the 4th Amendment's ban on unreasonable searches. Emergencies are the exception, not the rule, they say.
by David G. Savage
WASHINGTON — Police officers usually must have a search warrant before requiring a suspected drunk driver to have his blood drawn, the Supreme Court said Wednesday.
In an 8-1 decision, the justices rejected Missouri prosecutors' contention that police should have the freedom to act quickly and dispense with a warrant because alcohol dissipates in the blood.
Instead, the court said it would hold fast to its view that the 4th Amendment's ban on "unreasonable searches" means the police usually need a warrant from a magistrate before invading a person's privacy. And sticking a needle into someone's veins to obtain a sample of blood "is an invasion of bodily integrity [that] implicates an individual's most personal and deep-rooted expectations of privacy," said Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
But she also said that police sometimes need to act fast and in these cases they do not need to wait for a magistrate. For example, an officer may find it hard to obtain a warrant if a driver is arrested late at night in a rural area.
Still, these emergencies should be the exception, not the rule, in ordinary cases, Sotomayor said.
Wednesday's decision makes little change in the law regarding impaired drivers. In all 50 states, motorists who are stopped on suspicion of drunken driving must consent to a breath or blood test or face the loss of their driver's license.
Most drivers agree to a breath test. If not, an officer can contact a magistrate and obtain a warrant requiring the motorist to have his blood drawn.
Tyler McNeely, a Missouri man, refused to undergo a breath test after he was stopped for speeding after midnight. Without obtaining a warrant, an officer took him in custody and drove him to a nearby hospital to have his blood drawn by a lab technician. It showed McNeely was intoxicated.
But the Missouri courts threw out the evidence on the grounds that the forced blood test was unconstitutional without a warrant.
In their appeal to the Supreme Court, the state attorneys sought a big win. Rather than argue narrowly that the officer who arrested McNeely had a special need to act fast because it was the middle of the night, the state's attorney asked the justices to rule that search warrants are never required for blood alcohol tests.
That proved to be a tactical mistake. The justices noted it is usually simple and quick for an officer to get a warrant by phone or computer.
"We hold that in drunk driving investigations, the natural dissipation of the blood does not constitute an emergency in every case sufficient to justify conducting a blood test without a warrant," Sotomayor said in Missouri vs. McNeely.
Justice Clarence Thomas dissented alone. "Because the body's natural metabolization of alcohol inevitably destroys evidence of the crime, it constitutes an exigent circumstance" that calls for bypassing a search warrant, he said.