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At Marathon Finish Line, A Top Boston Cop Reckons With The Bombings

BOSTON — Boston Police Superintendent-in-Chief Dan Linskey was at the Boston Marathon finish line early in the morning, walking the area with his bomb sweeping teams, thanking his men and women for the job they do.

Then it was off to Brighton, to Newton, to Audobon Circle, he recalled Wednesday night during an onstage discussion with law enforcement, medical personnel and journalists hosted by WBUR’s Tom Ashbrook — “Boston After the Bombings: A Public Conversation of Hope and Healing.”

The Explosions In Boston

Suddenly, a voice on the radio from a cop he’d known for years, Sgt. Daniel Keeler. “This is a guy I’ve been in the trenches with, I’ve been through a number of doors with — one of our top, level-headed street bosses,” Linskey said. And yet, he couldn’t understand a word the sergeant said.

In a car, headed to the site, “I was praying that we had been an electrical explosion, that a natural disaster had hit our city,” he said. Anything but terror.

“They hit us twice, boss,” Keeler said at the scene.

“My first instinct, as Danny Linskey’s father and as a cop, was to get in and start applying pressure” to wounds, he said. “And I couldn’t do that, because I was in charge. And I needed to make sure that everyone else could do their jobs.”

The chief’s training taught him that a terrorist might set off a blast or two to draw first responders, then another to kill the cops and paramedics. He sent out a warning on the radio: there could be additional improvised explosive devices. “And they didn’t stop,” he said, “they came.”

After the victims were cleared, there were enormous logistical challenges: diverting runners who hadn’t yet finished, moving people out of Copley Square. But there was an investigation to launch, too. Surveillance tape to be pulled. Leads to be followed.

Gunfire In Cambridge And Watertown

Three days later, an MIT cop killed, a car hijacked. “We realized that out bombers were on the run and were operational,” Linskey said.

“I was in the middle of a car chase when I heard my officers saying that they were shooting and bombs were going off.”

Soon he found himself on Mt. Auburn Street, taking cover behind buildings with dozens of other cops. Over the radio: gang officer Ricky Moriarty, a battle-tested Marine, screaming for help.

“He was screaming that he had an officer who was hit and he needed assistance right away, he needed an ambulance,” Linskey said. “And I kept asking, two or three times: ‘Ricky, please let me know where you are, let me know where you are.’ And I finally heard him say 144 Dexter St.

“I don’t know Watertown, I didn’t know where I was,” Linskey said. He asked a state trooper, who didn’t know where they were either. Then they looked over their shoulders and Linskey saw a sign that read Dexter Street.

“And the trooper and I looked at each other and said, ‘Let’s go,’ ” he said.

Finding A Wounded Tamerlan

They and some other cops found Rickey and other officers holding pressure on a wound, “begging for an ambulance, begging for an ambulance.”

By then, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had already fled the scene, running over his brother Tamerlan. Linskey saw another gang officer holding Tamerlan on the ground and he ran over, worried that the suspect might be wearing an explosive vest — worried that he might blow up the cop.

The pair began to strip the suspect’s clothes. An ambulance arrived for the officer. And cops called for an ambulance for the suspect — “because that’s what we do,” Linskey said, “because we’re better than them.”

“And we gave him medical care, and tried to save his life, even though he killed children and women in our city,” Linskey said, “and even though he tried to kill us.”

Caputring Dzhokhar

Next, a perimeter. A hunt for Dzhokhar. Hours of frustration, of leads gone dry. And after 40 hours on duty, no longer able to stand, Dan Linskey went home, lied on the couch, and opened a beer.

Soon after, some six miles from the Boston Marathon finish line, it all came to an end.

Listen to the full audio from the onstage discussion, “Boston After the Bombings: A Public Conversation of Hope and Healing.”

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