Boston Marathon bombing: Tsarnaev placed at shooting of Sean Collier

Boston Marathon bombing: Tsarnaev placed at shooting of Sean Collier

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Testimony of MIT graduate places Jahar Tsarnaev at the shooting for Officer Sean Collier

BOSTON, March 12, 2015 ­ – Jurors in the Boston Marathon bombing trial heard testimony Wednesday from police officers and technology administrators at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology regarding the identity of the person who shot and killed Officer Sean Collier on the night of April 18, 2013.

Nate Harman, 24, who was an MIT student in his first year of a five-year Ph.D. program in mathematics, said that he saw a man leaning into Collier’s squad car and that he appeared to be alone. Harman testified that he was riding his bike home from his office on the Thursday night that Collier was killed

As Harman approached the Koch building, he came “within five or six feet” of a man who was leaning into the passenger side window of Collier’s parked cruiser.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was 19 at the time, does not dispute that he was present when Collier was killed on the evening of April 18, nor does he deny that he participated in the bombings three days earlier that killed three people and hurt more than 240 others.

Harman said that he saw only one person at the vehicle, a man he described as young, 18 or 19, white, wearing a dark knit cap and a hoodie with some sort of emblem on the front.

Harman said he startled the man, who turned around and made eye contact with him as he rode by on his bike.

“Do you see the person you saw that night in this room?” asked the prosecutor.

Harman shifted in his chair on the stand, visibly nervous and uncomfortable.

“Yes, I do,” said Harman, pointing to the defendant, Dzhokhar “Jahar” Tsarnaev, who was sitting at a table several feet in front of him. “It very well could be him. That’s him.”

Prior to Harman’s testimony, Officer David Saco testified that on the night of April 18, 2013, he and his friend Officer Collier were working the 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. shift at the MIT Police Department.

Saco was assigned to dispatch, while Collier was assigned to patrol the MIT campus. At the time, Collier was wearing his MIT police uniform, carrying his standard issue .45-caliber Glock pistol secured in a Safariland Triple Threat holster.

Officer Saco testified that it was his job that night to monitor alarms, answer 911 calls and dispatch appropriate emergency responders from his office at the MIT police station.

Saco told the jury that he received a 911 call at approximately 10:20 p.m., reporting “loud sounds” in the area where Collier was parked.

The recording of that call was played in court. A male caller tells Saco that he heard what he believed to be, but wasn’t sure were, gunshots, like someone banging on a drum.

“It sounds like someone is hitting a trash can very hard,” said the caller.

Based on that call, Saco dispatched vehicle 712 to the scene to investigate the source of the noise. When Saco attempted to reach Officer Collier by radio, he received no response, and calls to Collier’s cell phone were routed directly to voice mail.

Saco stated that he was not alarmed by the fact that Collier did not respond, and that at that time he speculated that it was possible that other people may be trying to reach Collier at the same time.

“After an amount of time passed that was not comfortable,” Saco said, he dispatched Sargent Clarence Henniker to learn Officer Collier’s whereabouts and status.

Moments later, Sgt. Henniger’s panicked voice can be heard screaming at Saco over the radio.

“Officer down! Officer down! Get me all units, get EMS on it!”

Sgt. Henniger was the first to arrive on scene, and at points during his testimony, he paused, attempting to stifle his emotions when talking about the young officer whom he had trained and mentored.

Henniger told the jury that he found Collier in his cruiser, slouched over, visibly shot in the temple, neck and right hand. He said that the inside of Collier’s cruiser and Collier’s body was covered in blood. His foot was jammed between the brake and the gas pedal.

There was so much blood that initially he thought that Collier’s gun was missing. He and another officer pulled Collier out of the squad car to attempt to revive him.

“The amount of blood on his body made it difficult to get a grip on him,” Henniger said.

The other officer urged Collier to “Hang in there, just hang in there,” and asked, “Who did this to you?”

Collier did not respond, and Cambridge police officer Brendan O’Hearn assisted Henniger in applying chest compressions.

“His face and neck were covered with blood. There was some type of wound to his head,” O’Hearn said. Collier was gurgling and blood was coming from his mouth

“There was blood everywhere,” O’Hearn added.

Weinreb asked, “Did it transfer to you?”

“All over me.”

Collier became the fourth victim of the Tsarnaev brothers.

After Collier was taken to the hospital, Henniger said, he secured the gun and holster (which had been removed from Collier’s body during CPR efforts) in his own cruiser.

The time stamps on the surveillance videos reflect that at 10:16 p.m., Officer Collier parked his vehicle near the Koch Institute, facing the intersection of Vassar and Main streets in Cambridge. The entrance to the Koch building is located around the corner and behind where the cruiser was positioned, and the front doors face  a dark green quad that is bordered by other MIT office buildings.

The video shows two figures at 10:23 p.m. walking  across the front of the Koch building, then around the corner, and approaching Collier’s cruiser from behind. Since Collier parked under a street light to the left of the vehicle, the driver’s side of the cruiser is well lit. However, the space between the cruiser and the Koch Building is too dark to see any activity that may be occurring on the passenger’s side of the vehicle.

At least one figure appears to approach the driver’s side window of Collier’s cruiser. Over the next two minutes, several other figures appear to walk, even run through the quad. At 10:24 p.m., a figure on a bike rides up behind the cruiser and passes it without stopping before continuing on to the streets beyond and into the city.

Moments later, two flashes of light emanate from inside the cruiser, and the brake lights come on.

At 10:25 p.m., what appears to be two people, or one person with a shadow, flee on foot around the corner in front of the Koch Building and into the dark streets beyond the scope of the camera’s view.

The cameras filming the incident were situated on the roof of a building located across the quad opposite the Koch building, at least 50 yards from where Collier sat alone in his cruiser that night.

Last week, defense attorney Judy Clarke admitted that, three days before Collier was murdered, Jahar conspired with his older brother Tamerlan to plant the bombs at the Boston Marathon.

Clarke also said that Jahar was part of Collier’s murder and the carjacking that ensued later that night. However, Clarke said that while Jahar should be held accountable for his part in the criminal conspiracy, he was acting in a subordinate role to his more dominant and fanatical older brother, who was the alleged mastermind behind the crimes.

Legal experts have suggested that the defense may be hoping that by admitting culpability for the horrific crimes, Jahar will gain credibility with the jurors, who will decide whether to spare him the death penalty if he is found guilty of the capital offenses he is currently charged with.

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