NEW YORK — Armed with a pressure-cooker explosive and five pipe bombs, the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing made a spur-of-the-moment decision last week to give the Big Apple a taste of their mayhem, New York officials say.
The potentially deadly scheme fell apart when the brothers realized the car they had hijacked was low on gas.
“We don’t know if we would have been able to stop the terrorists had they arrived here from Boston,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Thursday. “We’re just thankful that we didn’t have to find out that answer.”
New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said Dzhokhar Tsarnaev told interrogators at his hospital bed that he and his older brother spontaneously decided the night of April 18 to drive to New York and launch an attack.
But when the Tsarnaev brothers stopped at a gas station on the outskirts of Boston, the carjacking victim they were holding hostage escaped and called police, Kelly said.
Later that night, police intercepted the brothers in a blazing gunbattle that left Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, dead. Dzhokhar, 19, was discovered hiding in a boat in a suburban backyard the next day. He was wounded.
The U.S. Marshals Service said today that Tsarnaev has been released from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and transferred to the Federal Medical Center Devens, about 40 miles west of Boston.
It is questionable whether the Tsarnaevs could have successfully made the 200-mile trip to New York since they had become two of the most-wanted men in the world since the April 15 explosions that killed three people and injured more than 260. Their faces had been splashed all over the Internet and TV in surveillance-camera images released by the FBI. Yet the news that the city may have narrowly escaped another terrorist attack still made New Yorkers shudder.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is charged with carrying out the Boston Marathon bombing April 15 that killed three people and wounded more than 260, and he could get the death penalty. Christina DiIorio-Sterling, a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz in Boston, would not comment on whether authorities plan to add charges based on the alleged plot to attack New York.
Meanwhile in Massachusetts, the Middlesex County district attorney’s office said it is building a murder case against Tsarnaev for the death of MIT police officer Sean Collier three days after the bombings.
Based on the younger man’s interrogation and other evidence, authorities have said it appears so far that the brothers were radicalized via Islamic jihadi material on the Internet instead of any direct contact with terrorist organizations, but they warned it is still not certain.
In New York, Kelly and Bloomberg said they were briefed on the New York plot on Wednesday night by the task force investigating the Boston bombing.
Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., said in a CNN interview that the city should have been told earlier “so it could go into its defensive mode.”