Boston Marathon Bombings Essay


Incident Response to the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombings Although named for its venue, the Boston Marathon is sponsored by a number of different cities in the greater Boston area and is held annually on Patriot’s Day which is the third Monday in April (About the Boston Marathon, 2018). First run as an all-male event in 1897, the Boston Marathon has since become an international event that draws both male and female contestants from around the world with a global audience. On April 15, 2013, two Kyrgyz-American brothers detonated two homemade bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, causing hundreds of casualties – many of them severe and involving the loss of limbs – a well as three fatalities. The purpose of this case study is to provide an analysis of the effectiveness of the incident response to these bombings, including the role of first responders and the law enforcement community. Following the case study analysis, a summary of the research and key findings concerning the Boston Marathon bombings are presented in the conclusion.

Review and Analysis

The 199th running of the Boston Marathon proceeded without incident until around 2:49 p.m. when the first of two homemade bombs made from pressure cookers and filled with shrapnel and nails were detonated near the finish line. The second bomb was detonated just 13 seconds later, and the devastation caused by these two bombs was severe. In this regard, Lonky (2017) reports that, “There were people on the ground, limbs scattered, blood everywhere. Three spectators lie dead, and nearly two hundred sixty people are strewn, injured” (p. 393). A number of first responders and civilian spectators immediately came to the assistance of the injured, including the firefighter, James Plourde, whose iconic photograph depicted in Figure 1 below was circulated worldwide in the bombings’ aftermath (Bowerman, 2016).

Figure 1. First responder James Plourde carrying a victim of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings

Source: Bowerman, 2015

Following an massive manhunt, law enforcement authorities succeeded in apprehending the first of the two bombing suspects, 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (Boston Marathon bombing, 2018). This suspect’s older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, had been run over by his younger brother in an escape attempt and was subsequently killed during an armed confrontation with law enforcement authorities (Boston Marathon bombing, 2018). The investigations that followed the two bombings drew on the resources of more than 1,000 local, state and federal law enforcement officials (Boston Marathon bombing, 2018). The results of this intensive investigation showed that these two brothers were solely responsible for the bombings and the pair was not associated with any domestic or international terrorist organization (Boston Marathon bombing,...


For example, in the immediate aftermath of the bombings, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) mobilized the organization’s full resources for the investigation (Frommer, 2013). Just 2 days later, FBI analysts examining thousands of photographs and video recordings of the event taken by security cameras and bystanders succeeded in identifying the two primary suspects and surveillance-camera pictures of the pair were released to the public on the evening of April 18, 2013 (Frommer, 2013). That same evening, a 27-year-old police officer working at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was murdered by the two Tsarnaev brothers as he sat in his patrol car, apparently in an attempt to obtain his service revolver (Frommer, 2013). Shortly thereafter, the older brother stole a Mercedes SUV, and took the driver hostage, explaining that he was one of the two Boston Marathon bombers. The younger brother followed his older brother and the hostage in the Mercedes SUV in a Honda Civic and they proceeded to drive around to several ATM machines, forcing the hostage to withdraw money for them (Frommer, 2013).
A real breakthrough in the investigation took place when the hostage managed to escape during one of these stops and called the local police and told them they could track the vehicle by tracing his cellphone which was still in the SUV (Frommer, 2013). Early in the morning of April 19, the two suspect vehicles were spotted by law enforcement authorities in Watertown, a suburb of Boston, where an attempt was made to apprehend the pair. Following a gun battle in which one officer was critically wounded but survived, the younger brother commandeered the SUV and tried to crash it into the police officers, but only managed to run over his older brother who was severely wounded in the process (Frommer, 2013). The younger brother subsequently fled on foot while his older brother, who had also been shot numerous times by law enforcement authorities, was taken to a local hospital where he died (Frommer, 2013).

Some indication of the effectiveness of the law enforcement response to this terrorist incident can be discerned from the rapidity with which the suspects were identified and subsequently located, as well as the steps that were taken by the FBI. For example, Frommer points out that, “[On] April 19, the Boston area was put on lockdown, with schools closed, public transportation service suspended and people advised to stay inside their homes, as police conducted door-to-door searches in Watertown and military-style vehicles patrolled the streets” (para. 4).

The younger brother, who had been wounded in…

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