Watertown police officers recount 2013 shootout with marathon bombers

WATERTOWN, Mass. (WHDH) — Though it looks like a neighborhood you could see anywhere, Laurel Street in Watertown is anything but.

It is the quiet residential neighborhood that five years ago was transformed into a war zone during a dramatic shootout between the Boston marathon bombers and local police officers.

“This is where I was shooting from,” Watertown Police Sgt. John MacLellan said on a recent afternoon, as he returned to the scene of the shootout with a 7News crew. He was standing in front of a small tree in someone’s front yard, hemmed in by a short fence.

“This tree seemed a lot bigger at the time,” he joked.

Today the street is calm, although remnants of the mayhem remain — bullet holes are still lodged in the siding of people’s homes. They serve as reminders for what transpired in the early morning hours of April 19, 2013.

MacLellan was one of the first officers to arrive on the scene after hearing about a carjacking in the area. Almost immediately, he found himself exchanging gunfire with the Tsarnaev brothers. The terrorists were armed with weapons including a gun, pipe bombs and pressure cookers.

“The first [bomb], my truck was rolling and it blew up on the other side of the car,” MacLellan says.

He was joined that night by veteran Watertown police officer, Sergeant Jeffrey Pugliese. After close to 40 years on the force, not much phases Pugliese, who sports a long, white handlebar mustache. But no amount of time will wash away the memories he has here.

“When you drive down the street, you can’t help but think [about it],” Pugliese says. “I remember standing right over by that house there and exchanging gunfire six feet apart from the older brother.”

In his long policing career, the first time Pugliese ever fired his weapon was eye to eye with Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

The officers say they will remember so many who responded to the scene right along side them. But they don’t spend much time thinking about the two brothers who caused so much chaos.

“Unless I hear their names or somebody brings it up to me, they’re out of my mind,” says Pugliese. “They’re unimportant to me.”

What’s most important to them is the community they serve — the people who, since the shootout, show more gestures of appreciation.

“I’ll be standing in line at Dunkin’ Donuts to get a cup of coffee…the person two people ahead of me paid for it,” says Pugliese. “That never happened prior to this stuff.”

And they’ll never forget the heroism of their fellow officers that night on Laurel Street.

“All officers that were here that night did an outstanding job,” Pugliese says. “If one thing went another way, one of us might have been being buried that night. Or maybe more of us.”

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