The Middlesex District Attorney’s Office and the Massachusetts State Police Detectives assigned to the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office have concluded the investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the injury to MBTA Police Officer Richard Donohue and the possible injury to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on Laurel Street in Watertown on April 19, 2013.
The issues addressed in this investigation were whether the police shooting of Tamerlan Tsarnaev (and likely Dzhokhar Tsarnaev) on Laurel Street and the shooting of Officer Richard Donohue near the corner of Laurel Street and Dexter Avenue amounted to criminal conduct or whether, in the totality of the circumstances, the officers who discharged their weapons were justified in their use of deadly force in the proper exercise of self-defense and/or defense of another.
“After an extensive review of the facts, the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office finds that the officers who discharged their weapons were justified in their use of deadly force in the proper exercise of self-defense and or defense of another, and the criminal investigation into this matter is now closed without prosecution,” said Middlesex County District Attorney Marian Ryan.
“Every officer who responded to that situation did so recognizing that they were placing themselves in danger of death or serious bodily injury to come to the aid and defense of their fellow officers and the citizens they are sworn to serve and protect,” continued DA Ryan. “These officers responded in a courageous fashion which was testament to their commitment and training.”
The Middlesex District Attorney’s Office’s Chief of Homicide was assigned to direct the investigation.
For a copy of the Statement please log on to www.middlesexda.com
Summary of Findings
The investigation could not identify conclusively which police officer or officers fired the shots that struck Tamerlan Tsarnaev, although the ballistics evidence has limited the universe of officers who could have done so to the fourteen officers, from the Watertown police, the Boston police and the Boston University police who all used Glock .40 caliber firearms.
The investigation could not determine conclusively that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was shot on Laurel Street in the early morning hours of April 19, 2013 due to the absence of ballistics evidence associated with his injuries, particularly given the shooting events on Franklin Street leading up to his arrest hiding in the boat.
The officers who fired their weapons at Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had a reasonable belief that they were in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury and that no other means other than the use of deadly force in the discharge of their department issued firearms would suffice to protect and save their lives, the lives of their fellow officers and the lives of the residents of that thickly settled residential neighborhood. Accordingly, it is our determination that their conduct was not criminal.
The investigation could not identify which gun fired the bullet which struck MBTA Officer Richard Donohue, given that the bullet still remains in his leg. However, given the totality of the evidence presented, it seems highly likely that the shot which struck Officer Donohue was not fired by Tsarnaev, and more likely that Donohue was injured by one of the shots fired by the law enforcement officers who were firing in self-defense and defense of others as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev made his escape from the Laurel Street scene.
If Officer Donohue was, in fact, struck by a bullet fired by one of these officers who were all acting justifiably in defense of themselves and of others, when they intentionally fired that shot aimed at Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, that officer was, nevertheless, entitled to use deadly force in the circumstances. Accordingly, it is our determination that the conduct of the officer would not have been criminal.
A review of the summarized facts, which is not exhaustive of all facts considered and relied upon, reveals that in the totality of the circumstances, the officers who responded to Laurel Street in the early morning hours were each justified in their use of deadly force in defense of themselves and others, based on each officer’s reasonable belief, in the face of a constant barrage of gunfire and detonation of explosive devices which shook the ground, caused debris to rain on the officers and the area, and the rapidly evolving circumstances, that he, his fellow officers, and the residents of that thickly settled residential neighborhood were in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury.
After applying the appropriate legal standards related to the use of deadly force in self-defense and/or defense of another, the criminal investigation into this matter is closed without prosecution. The matter is being referred back to the police departments of the officers who fired their firearms on Laurel Street on April 19, 2013, for whatever further action, if any, they deem appropriate.