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Local News

April 23, 2013

Inside the SWAT team search of Watertown

PEABODY — When Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was apprehended Friday night hiding inside a boat in a Watertown backyard, Peabody police officer Mark Saia was close enough to hear his voice.

“We heard him screaming,” said Saia, a SWAT team member from the North Eastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council, a regional force. “When they were trying to get him over the side of the board, he was saying he was hurt — ‘It hurts. ... It hurts.’”

The dramatic arrest ended a nearly 24-hour siege that began with the fatal shooting late Thursday night of MIT police officer Sean Collier, a Salem State graduate. It included a carjacking, a wild shootout with police in which grenades and a homemade bomb were tossed, a lockdown of Watertown and surrounding communities, and a house-to-house search of Watertown neighborhoods by hundreds of police officers, including members of the NEMLEC SWAT team.

When it all began, Saia was at home getting ready for bed after working long SWAT team shifts in Boston in the wake of the marathon bombing last Monday that killed three people and injured more than 180. He saw the news on TV and started making phone calls.

“Get rolling,” said Lt. Steve Chaput of Dracut, the NEMLEC SWAT team commander.

Saia, 49, headed to the Peabody police station, where he met SWAT team member Al Scotina, a former Peabody officer who now works in Lynnfield. They drove to Boston with lights flashing, siren blaring and in constant contact with SWAT team members at the scene.

They arrived at the location in Watertown where Tsarnaev had abandoned a vehicle and fled on foot.

“We had pretty much the whole team there within maybe 30 minutes,” the Peabody officer said.

After putting on about 60 pounds of gear — body armor, helmet, night-vision goggles, a Colt M4 Commando rifle and extra magazines — the NEMLEC SWAT team members joined the search. In addition to Saia, there are more than 30 specially trained officers from a number of communities in Essex and Middlesex counties.

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