How the Boston Carjack Victim Escaped

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
April 26 2013 11:38 AM

Boston Carjacking Victim Tells His Story: “Death [Was] So Close to Me"

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Police with guns drawn search for a suspect on April 19, 2013 in Watertown, Mass.

Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

The Boston Globe lands itself the must-read Boston bombing piece of the day: the full story of the man who was carjacked by the Tsarnaev brothers only to later escape and call police. Unsurprisingly, given what he's been through, the man asks to be identified only by "Danny," his American nickname. Here's a snippet:

In an exclusive interview with the Globe on Thursday, Danny -- the victim of the Tsarnaev brothers’ much-discussed but previously little-understood carjacking -- filled in some of the last missing pieces in the timeline between the murder of MIT police officer Sean Collier, just before 10:30 p.m. on April 18, and the Watertown shootout that ended just before 1 a.m. Danny asked that he be identified only by his American nickname.
The story of that night unfolds like a Tarantino movie, bursts of harrowing action laced with dark humor and dialogue absurd for its ordinariness, reminders of just how young the men in the car were. Girls, credit limits for students, the marvels of the Mercedes ML 350 and the iPhone 5, whether anyone still listens to CDs -- all were discussed by the two 26-year-olds and the 19-year-old driving around on a Thursday night.
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In all, Danny—a 26-year-old Chinese entrepreneur who attended Northeastern University—was held captive in the car for about 90 minutes after Tamerlan, the older of the two brothers, jumped in the car brandishing a silver handgun. During that time the second brother eventually got in the car as well. When they later stopped for gas, Danny saw his opportunity and took it:

When the younger brother, Dzhokhar, was forced to go inside the Shell Food Mart to pay, older brother Tamerlan put his gun in the door pocket to fiddle with a navigation device -- letting his guard down briefly after a night on the run. Danny then did what he had been rehearsing in his head. In a flash, he unbuckled his seat belt, opened the door, stepped through, slammed it behind, and sprinted off at an angle that would be a hard shot for any marksman. “F---!” he heard Tamerlan say, feeling the rush of a near-miss grab at his back, but the man did not follow. Danny reached the haven of a Mobil station across the street, seeking cover in the supply room, shouting for the clerk to call 911."

When the cops arrived, Danny told them his car could be tracked by using his iPhone that was still inside, and with his Mercedes' "mbrace" satellite system. The brothers were soon found in Watertown, leading to a daylong manhunt for the younger of the two.

The Globe account makes no specific mention of the fact that the brothers spared Danny's life because he "wasn't American," as previously reported earlier this week. Although it does hint that nationality and ethnicity may have played a part in Danny's ultimate survival:

'Don’t look at me!' Tamerlan shouted at one point. 'Do you remember my face?'
'No, no, I don’t remember anything,' he said.
Tamerlan laughed. 'It’s like white guys, they look at black guys and think all black guys look the same,' he said. 'And maybe you think all white guys look the same.'
'Exactly,' Danny said, though he thought nothing of the sort. It was one of many moments in their mental chess match, Danny playing up his outsider status in America and playing down his wealth -- he claimed the car was older than it was, and he understated his lease payments -- in a desperate hope of extending his life...he told Tamerlan he was still a student, and that he had been here barely a year. It seemed to help that Tamerlan had trouble understanding even Danny’s pronunciation of the word 'China.'
'Oh, that’s why your English is not very good,' the brother replied, finally figuring it out. 'OK, you’re Chinese ... I’m a Muslim.'
'Chinese are very friendly to Muslims!' Danny said. 'We are so friendly to Muslims.'"

The Globe story is worth a read in its entirety, especially for the touching last line, which we won't spoil for you. Check it out here.

Abby Ohlheiser is a Slate contributor.

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