Police: Tsarnaev Brothers Plotted Times Square Attack

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
April 25 2013 2:44 PM

Police Say Tsarnaev Brothers Plotted "Spontaneous" Times Square Attack

A New York City police officer pictured stands watch in Times Square.
A New York City police officer pictured stands watch in Times Square.

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg revealed this afternoon that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev told authorities earlier this week that he and his brother had discussed going to New York City to detonate the explosive devices they still had in their possession after the Boston Marathon bombing. Exactly how much thought the brothers put into the plan, however, remains unclear: NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly said that Tsarnaev described the plot, which was said to target Times Square, as a "spontaneous" one that was hatched last Thursday night and quickly abandoned as police closed in on them in suburban Boston.

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

[Update 3:38 p.m.: One unnamed federal official who spoke with the New York Times after the presser threw cold water on the idea that the plan was even half-formed, suggesting that the conversation between the two brothers was more "a stream of consciousness as opposed to,'‘Bomb Boston, then bomb New York'."]

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"They discussed this while driving around in a Mercedes SUV that they hijacked after they shot and killed the officer at MIT," Kelly said. "That plan, however, fell apart when they realized that the vehicle they hijacked was low on gas and ordered the driver to stop at a nearby gas station."

Bloomberg and Kelly both cautioned that they were getting their information secondhand from authorities in Boston.

Kelly said that the brothers had one undetonated pressure cooker bomb, along with five pipe bombs, left when the manhunt began, a fact that suggests that if last Thursday night would have unfolded differently, the brothers could have inflicted significant damage if they would have made it to Times Square—assuming, again, that the brothers followed through with their apparent spur-of-the-moment decision.

The news comes one day after Kelly told reporters that the brothers had planned to head to New York City following the Boston attack to "party." The police commissioner explained that was the original story that Dzhokhar told police when they began to interrogate him in the hospital, but that he later provided a more detailed account during a subsequent interview.

Both interviews appear to have happened before authorities read the younger Tsarnaev brother his Miranda rights on Monday. According to Kelly, Dzhokhar was interrogated twice by authorities in the hospital, the first time on "Saturday evening into Sunday morning" and the second on "Sunday evening into Monday morning." According to an Associated Press report from earlier today, the questioning lasted a total of 16 hours before Dzhokhar stopped cooperating upon being informed of his right to remain silent.

Dzhokhar was speaking—and not writing, as previously suggested by officials—during the second interview, during which he provided a more detailed and "lucid" account than in the first interview, according to Kelly. The fact that the interrogation was broken down into two sessions may explain the slow, drip-drip-drip nature of leaks to the media about what exactly Dzhokhar has told authorities in Boston. (Although, as Emily Bazelon explains, that also may have been a conscious decison by authorities to give the impression that the suspect kept talking after he’d been Mirandized.)

***Follow @JoshVoorhees and the rest of the @slatest team on Twitter, and read more on Slate about the Boston Marathon bombing.***

This post has been updated with additional information.

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