| BOSTON, April 3
BOSTON, April 3 The massive manhunt for the
perpetrators of last year's Boston Marathon bomb attack exposed
some "fault lines" in coordinating law enforcement at the
federal, state and local levels, according to a study released
Emergency responders racing to a crime scene without waiting
for orders might save lives by tending to the wounded, but
during the chaotic chase to catch the suspects a few days later,
they also risked being shot by police, the Harvard University
The hairiest events after the bombing, which killed three
people and injured 264, began three days later when the two
ethnic Chechen brothers accused of planting the pressure-cooker
bombs at the finish line, shot and killed a university police
officer in a failed attempt to steal his gun and flee the city.
The shooting prompted hundreds of local police, as well as
law enforcement officials who had traveled from other towns to
help with the investigation, to race to Watertown,
Massachusetts, where the suspects traded shots with police.
Officers surrounded the suspects, placing police at a high
risk of shooting one another, the report found.
"They were incredibly lucky that there weren't a lot of
friendly fire casualties," said lead author Herman "Dutch"
Leonard, a professor of public management at Harvard's John F.
Kennedy School of Government.
The study was based on interviews with some 100 law
enforcement and other public officials who took part in the
One officer, Richard Donohue of the transit police, was
badly wounded in that gun battle and witnesses told local media
that he may have been accidentally shot by a fellow officer. No
official report on the shooting has been released.
That incident was not the only case in which possibly
overtired officers ran the risk of shooting one another, the
report said. The gunbattle ended in the death of one suspect,
26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev, while his younger brother
Dzhokhar, now 20, managed to elude police.
When the younger brother was found hiding in a drydocked
boat the next evening, dozens of police raced to the scene.
One officer on a rooftop fired at Tsarnaev, prompting "a
substantial volume of contagious fire" by other police at the
scene, the report found.
It noted that contagious gunfire, in which the sound of
shots prompts others to fire their weapons, poses a high risk in
densely populated areas such as the Watertown suburb of Boston
where the younger Tsarnaev was apprehended.
The suspect is now awaiting trial on charges that carry the
threat of execution if he is convicted.
Despite problems during the manhunt, the report found that
law enforcement officials worked together smoothly on the day of
the bomb blasts, evidenced by the fact that most of the
casualties, many of whom lost legs, survived despite substantial
loss of blood.
That coordinated effort was a result of years of planning
and coordination around the marathon, Boston's best-attended
The Harvard report suggests that law enforcement officials
responding to major security threats take more aggressive steps
to establish tactical command, including planning rest shifts so
that they are not relying on overtired officers.
The lessons of the response to the Boston bombing could
easily apply to future security scares, Leonard said.
"Any significant terrorist activity on the homeland is going
to generate a similar ramping up and presence of many different
law enforcement agencies," Leonard said.
"This event illustrates how much progress we've made since
9/11 and Katrina in being able to form rapid command structures
that are effective," he said. "But we have a lot of work to do
in projecting the same philosophy down to operating on the
(Reporting by Scott Malone; editing by Gunna Dickson)