Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Stills of notorious Forum video with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev passing the patio

This post is an update of my last blog entry

Still 1

Still 2


These two pictures were published by the FBI on April 18th, 2013. In my preceding blog post, I featured the right picture (Still 2) and pinpointed it at the sidewalk in front of the Forum. I referred to it incorrectly as "FBI photo" - it has turned out to be a video still. Still 1 is obviously taken from the same video footage.

The FBI webpage doesn't reveal the origin of the stills, but it is possible to determine it with the help of photos of the Forum (source). It is a surveillance camera at the restaurant, positioned above a glass door right beside the entrance of Boylston Street 755. You can see it on this photo in the upper right corner:

Here is another photo:

At first, it looks like an outdoor lamp with a shade, but a closer look reveals the typical tinted hemisphere of a surveillance camera. As there is no other device visible as an alternative candidate, this camera definitely recorded the famous and notorious Forum video which so many people want to see and so few were able to see, and the two pictures are taken from it. I have been told by Boston residents that there's still a surveillance camera at the same place.

In Still 1, Dzhokhar passes a group of spectators at the barriers. These people are also visible in Still 2 in the upper right corner. So the pictures must have been taken within a short time, maybe 2 or 3 seconds. This would correspond to a distance of about 10 feet covered by Dzhokhar. The following diagram illustrates the situation (the location of Still 2 is slightly adjusted in relation to an earlier version):

The C on red represents the surveillance camera.
The dotted white lines represent the camera's central alignment for the respective stills.
The DTs represent Dzhokhar's position in Still 1, Still 2, and the place where he dropped his bag.
The dotted black line represents Dzhokhar's path in the Forum video.
The yellow explosion symbol represents the location of the pressure cooker bomb.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has never entered the Forum patio. His bag was not the second bomb.

Friday, January 02, 2015

FBI photo shows Dzhokhar Tsarnaev passing the Forum patio

I have posted an update here.

This picture (original URL) belongs to 16 photographs and video stills with the Tsarnaev brothers, published on the FBI website on April 18, 2013. The page ist still available under this URL:

The photo's blurriness doesn't hinder the fact that it bears most valuable information regarding the whereabouts of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev prior to the explosions.

It shows a segment of the sidewalk of Boylston Street, but where exactly was it shot? Dzhokhar walks alone, his brother is not with him - which would narrow down the location to the sidewalk in front of Atlantic Fish or Forum, after the brothers had separated. However, Tamerlan might just be out of view of the photographer, so this is no reliable conclusion.

Two details enable it to narrow down the location very well. In the background is a pole, apparently belonging to a road sign. It might be the one in front of the Forum entrance, but there are of course many road signs along Boylston Street.

In the foreground, you see the back of a woman with straight blond shoulder-length hair. She wears a striking black sleeveless thermo vest, underneath there's a gray/green jacket or shirt.

There are many photos with spectators standing on the patio of the Forum (sitting area, within the fence) prior to the blast. Some of them show a woman with the same hair and the same clothing as in the FBI photo. Here is one of these photos - the lady in the center:

The congruences are sufficient to say that the photos show the same woman. This insight is anything but trivial: it is strong evidence that the FBI photo shows Dzhokhar walking on the sidewalk in front of the Forum.

To narrow down his location further, note that if you draw a theoretical line between the pole and the woman in the FBI photo, Dzhokhar is just about to cross this line. The location of the pole is known; the location of the woman seems to be roughly in the middle of the patio (sitting area) at the fence. And indeed, on all pre-blast photos (not only the one above) the lady is standing right in the middle of the sitting area. A good compilation of pre-blast photos is here.

With these two "landmarks", Dzhokhar's position can be determined quite precisely:

The W represents the location of the woman in the FBI photo.
The pale dotted line is the said sightline.
The DTs with the suitcase symbol represent the positions of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in the FBI photo and (presumably) in the Forum video.
The black dotted line represents Dzhokhar's presumable path towards the place where he dropped his bag.
The yellow explosion symbol represents the location of the bomb.

The FBI photo is highly significant because it shows that Dzhokhar did not enter the patio, but passed it - he obviously went on straight to the metal barrier near the mailbox. It is therefore an independent confirmation of what has been described in the criminal complaint:

As I have stressed in many blog entries, publicly available photographic evidence and eyewitness statements show undubitably that the bomb exploded on the patio, entry area. But two official documents confirm that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev did not enter the patio, still less dropped his bag there.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's bag was not the second bomb, and he was not the second bomber.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Marc Fucarile - survivor and eyewitness

Marc Fucarile is probably the hardest-hit survivor of the Marathon bombings. He lost his right leg above the knee. His left leg was also heavily injured, needed several operations and is still in precarious condition. Additional shrapnel hit his upper body, including a dangerous piece in the heart.

So it is understandable that Fucarile is eager to have the culprit punished who changed his life forever. But this has made him blind for the fact that the culprit is not known yet. He is fixated on Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and refuses to accept the principle "innocent until proven guilty". But as I have outlined in former blog entries, the available evidence makes it literally impossible that Dzhokhar's bag was the second bomb that maimed Fucarile's leg.

What Fucarile apparently doesn't take into account is that he is a potential key witness, like all other survivors of the second blast, and even might be summoned by the defense. He should take a short look at the criminal complaint:

So the Forum video shows that Tsarnaev dropped his bag at the metal barriers. The paper does not specify the exact location, whether it was between the tree and the mailbox or between the tree and the pole sign. For convenience, I'll disregard the latter and assume that the bag was located between the tree and the mailbox. The efforts of the mainstream media to propagate the "mailbox" version in the immediate aftermath of the bombings indicate "insider knowledge" that Tsarnaev indeed dropped his bag near the mailbox in the Forum video. (The assumption that he dropped it left of the tree leads to even more inevitable problems, by the way).

Several photos shot seconds after the blast show Fucarile lying between the mailbox and the tree, i.e. at the same place where Tsarnaev presumably dropped his bag! Here's a sketch:

The black dotted lines represent the position of the metal barriers after the blast; the white dotted lines represent the former position of the two metal barriers which were blown away or deformed by the blast. The blue criss-cross area shows Marc Fucarile's location after the blast, and the little suitcase symbols indicate possible locations of Tsarnaev's bag before the blast (it might have been somewhere in between, of course).

The diagram shows, as already said, that Fucarile was lying at nearly the same place where the bag was before the blast. The naive conclusion Oh, he was so close to the bomb, no wonder he's so badly injured! fails a reality check however because it neglects the immense pressure wave of the blast. In other words: if Fucarile was (hypothetically) standing at the metal barriers beside Tsarnaev's bag, and this (hypothetical) bomb hit him, he would have been blown away quite a few feet, like so many others. Which obviously didn't happen.

If Fucarile was not standing near the mailbox, but somewhere else, this would indicate that Tsarnaev's bag (the hypothetical bomb) dragged him there. But bombs don't behave like that. Bombs blow everything away from the epicenter - they don't suck things towards the epicenter. Which is proof that the hypothetis doesn't hold and Tsarnaev's bag was no bomb.

Fucarile himself knows best where he was standing prior to the blast. If he was not at the place where he found himself after the blast, i. e. near the mailbox, he seriously should reconsider his hostile and dismissive stance towards Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. He should contact the defense team instead and offer his testimony in order to work towards a search for the real culprit.

However, his testimony is not necessary to determine his pre-blast location. The Forum video and the Lord&Taylor video ought to show him with sufficient clarity.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Amy Garofalo - Witness for the Defense

in the case USA vs. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev


Amy Garofalo was at the Forum with her family when the second bomb exploded. They attended a Marathon party of the Joe Andruzzi foundation, which was hosted by the restaurant and took place on the second floor. Without doubt she is an important witness in the Tsarnaev case with regards to the epicenter of the bomb:
Amy Garofalo, of Middletown, Conn., was at a restaurant with her husband and two sons watching the runners when she heard the first explosion. She went outside to see what happened, when the second explosion went off in front of her. “It blew me into the restaurant,” Garofalo said.
 “When the first bomb went off, it shook the restaurant. I looked up the street and could see a big cloud of white smoke. In the 10 seconds before the second blast, I thought it couldn’t be something celebratory, it was too scary. There was no way. It was so loud and so powerful,” she said.
Two messages from Garofalo's twitter account (saved by screenshots) confirm these reports - one from April 15th, 2013: "2nd explosion happened right in front of us and blew us back in the building!"

 And in another one from April 16, she says that the bomb exploded 10 feet away from her.

So where exactly was Amy Garofalo in the moment of the second explosion? She hurried outside after the first blast, then the second blast blew her back inside. So she was either (A) in front of the main entrance - or (B) just outside the opened glass doors of the sit down area of the patio.

She stresses that the bomb exploded "right in front of us" and "10 feet away". For area B this would implicate an epicenter inmidst the tables and chairs on the right side of the patio. This is not only incompatible with all other available witness statements. Additionally, the tables and chairs were not blown away, and there were no injured people in the sitting area.

This leaves area A as the only remaining possibility. Amy Garofalo was most probably directly outside the open doorway of the main entrance. This is consistent with our previous findings: the pressure wave hit her distinctly weaker than Heather Abbott (she had only minor injuries from glass splinters), certainly because she was not so extremely close to the bomb and also protected by the people in between. She must have been somewhere between Abbott and the doorway when the explosion occurred. This is in accordance with the location of the epicenter as I've depicted it here, based on Heather Abbott's account:

According to the criminal complaint and the indictment, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev dropped his bag at the metal barriers. It is impossible that it was the explosive device that blew Amy Garofalo through the doorway into the restaurant. Too far away, too many people in between, and a wrong angle. This makes her a most important witness for the defense, just like Heather Abbott.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Bill Hoenk - photographer and eyewitness in the Tsarnaev case

Bill Hoenk is a non-professional photographer who happened to become an eyewitness of the second explosion. One of his photos made it onto the front page of the Time magazine: a two or three year-old boy (Leo Woolfenden) carried away by a policeman (Thomas Barrett).

Hoenk describes his experience in a little known online report (credits to wiseowl of for unearthing this). He states that he shot 51 photos in the first five minutes after the second blast, yet only four of them have been published. These four are apparently pictured in his report, including another iconic photo: Matt Patterson carrying the heavily injured red-haired child alleged to be Jane Richard. Another one is a famous photo shot only 20 seconds after the explosion which I have already featured multiple times:

It appears that Bill Hoenk's material exceeds the output of other photographers of the immediate aftermath of the blast - namely Kenshin Okubo, David Silverman, and David Green - both quantitatively and qualitatively, in terms of significance for the criminal case Marathon bombings. Plenty of interesting and crucial insights are to be expected from the unseen 47 photos, and the defense ought to consider to request them from either the prosecution - in case they have them - or Hoenk himself. 

One important picture probably belongs to these 47 unknowns - it seems to have slipped through the cracks, but is not really widespread. I have featured it in this blog entry and will call it the graphic photo from now on:

Is Bill Hoenk the creator of the graphic photo (whose origin is in the dark)? Yes, most certainly. In order to understand that, we have to consult two videos of the second bomb aftermath, the Fred Land video and the Daniel Robert video. This Hoenk photo

can be matched with the Daniel Robert video and a picture from another photographer taken only seconds before, from a different perspective:

It can be concluded by comparison that Hoenk must have shot the photo at around 3:40 (+-5 seconds) after the blast.

Now look at this screenshot from the Daniel Robert video at 1:02 (3:41 after the blast):

On the left side there's a man standing at a barrier with his camera directed at the second bomb site. The next diagram shows that the position of the man and the angle match the Hoenk photo exactly. In other words: This man is Bill Hoenk just taking the photo depicted above. He wears dark-colored clothes, a backpack, a camera with telephoto lens, and, most strikingly, white sneakers.

Now let's take a look at the Fred Land video. At 1:38, someone wearing dark-colored clothes, a backpack and white sneakers suddenly enters the visible area from below, near the lower right corner, stops at 1:42, takes a picture with a telephoto lens, and leaves the area via the right border at 1:46. This man is clearly Bill Hoenk.

Again, the following diagram shows that time (1:42 in the Fred Land video = 0:42 after the blast), angle and position match the graphic photo:

So the Fred Land video proves that Bill Hoenk is the maker of the graphic photo, thus confirming its hitherto questionable authenticity. I have highlighted its significance for the Tsarnaev case in former blog entries. The example shows that the unseen Hoenk photos are of utmost importance for the trial against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Did Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's bag belong to a bomb-sniffing drill?

Dana Rouleau

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev did not plant the pressure cooker bomb at the Forum restaurant. His bag is well pictured in the famous video footage of the corner Gloucester/Boylston Street. It does not contain a pressure cooker (no bulge), it doesn't fit the pictures of the remnants of the second bomb backpack, it doesn't fit the FBI's verbal description of the backpack, and Dzhokhar didn't place it at the location where the second bomb exploded (it was 12-15 feet away, to be exact).

Notwithstanding, his behavior at the Marathon is a conundrum. He dropped his backpack in front of the Forum, and unless he "forgot" to pick it up when he left the site - which is highly unlikely - the question what was in his bag and why did he leave it there is extremely puzzling.

It is not disputed that Dzhokhar purchased and played with fireworks, opened the tubes and removed the black powder. But the producer has ensured that this black powder has not the explosive force necessary for a pressure cooker bomb.

It is also not disputed that there were some bomb alerts after the bombings. The Mandarin hotel was evacuated due to a bomb threat, and there was one controlled demolition announced one hour after the bombs, located across Boston Public library, which is exactly the first bomb site!
Reports from social media (unconfirmed) indicate that a secondary explosive device has been located outside of Boston's Mandarin Oriental Hotel and will be destroyed (hopefully safely) in a controlled demolition by the Boston Police Department using explosive ordnance disposal equipment.

A third explosion was heard about an hour after the first two after authorities warned spectators to expect a loud noise from a water cannon that police apparently were using to destroy one of the devices.

The media have taken the information about the additional suspicious items with astonishing serenity, not to say negligence. It soon vanished into oblivion. Nobody cared about the nature of these bombs, who might have placed them, etc. - but they should have appeared in FBI records, court filings and  investigative reports. They didn't. After Marathon day, nobody was interested in the fact that in addition to the two big bombs two other bombs have been dismantled.

And who found the explosive devices among the many bags and backpacks left back or forgotten in panic? Yes - the bomb-sniffing dogs who were already on scene before, apparently as participants of a drill. A study from the Harvard Kennedy school released in April reports that at least one of the not-explosive bombs was identified by a dog.

This leads to an alternative explanation for Dzhokhar's behavior which is much better in accordance with reality: his bag might simply have contained the harmless black powder from the fireworks, with certain ingrediences similar to the "real stuff" so that the "canines" were able to identify it. He was definitely not the only one who placed a harmless bomb as part of the bomb-sniffing drill. And his brother Tamerlan, the one with the special law enforcement connections, persuaded him to do this dubious, but presumably well paid "job".

When besieged by the FBI in his hospital bed, Dzhokhar indeed seems to have mentioned a bomb, but it is unclear what kind of "bomb" . The crucial details are blacked out in this court document - with the exception of the black powder:

Even the defense admits the "bomb" in Doc 295:

Despite fighting for the admissibility of these statements the prosecution has announced not to make use of this "confession". Is it because Dzhokhar's description is not compatible with a pressure cooker bomb?

Sunday, July 06, 2014

When exactly was Tamerlan Tsarnaev identified by the FBI on surveillance video?

The National Geographic docudrama "The hunt for the Boston Bombers" is a masterpiece in the art of fudging reality. It shows

-  genuine footage from the immediate aftermath of the bombings
-  reenacted scenes from the immediate aftermath of the bombings
-  genuine interviews with genuine FBI- or ex-FBI officials
-  reenacted scenes with actors posing as FBI officials
-  reenacted scenes with actors posing as the Tsarnaevs
-  reenacted scenes with FBI staff watching a reenacted video with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev
-  reenacted scenes with FBI staff watching a genuine video with the Tsarnaevs

The mode of the scenes changes very quickly and there are no captions in the original version to inform the viewer, making it difficult for him to know if a particular scene is reenacted or genuine. The defense has addressed this problem in a motion to prohibit leaks.

Fortunately, at least the interview clips with the FBI agents are genuine and reliably reflect their view of what happened in the days after the bombings. I have already pointed out here that their narrative at what time Dzhokhar was identified as a suspect ("White Hat") is at odds with the common police practice to examine the most important surveillance video at first - which is, in the case of the second bomb, the Forum video. This video was known to law enforcement on Monday afternoon, already half an hour after the bombings, but the docudrama suggests the FBI didn't spot Dzohkhar until Tuesday afternoon, which is hardly credible.

But even if we assume for once that an incompetent FBI staff needed over 24 hours to detect how Dzhokhar dropped a bag at the Forum, behaved "suspiciously" and left the scene 10 seconds before the blast, this blunder is trumped by another FBI failure.

The statements of FBI Special Agent Jeffrey S. Sallett implicate that at least one day passed from the detection of Dzhokhar in the said surveillance video until the detection of Tamerlan in another video. According to Sallett, this was the situation on Tuesday after having spotted "White Hat" for the first time:
There's no magic bullet to get the identity of this man. The image that we have is extremely grey, not even a great photo of this individual. So now our team objective is to see if there is other videos of White Hat walking down the street to identify where that individual and when that individual came onto the crime scene itself - and was that individual with anybody else when they came onto the crime scene.
And this is how Sallett describes the situation on Wednesday:
The evening of Wednesday April 17th Massachusetts State Police Colonel Frank Matthews came up to the 8th floor of the FBI building and said: I think we have another subject. “This is the security camera of the corner Gloucester/Boylston at around 2:37.” They have a video with our individual walking with the white hat with another individual, a larger person, with a similar backpack. “And they make their way along Boylston and then they walk away from the camera toward the bomb site”.
It was only after detecting this second video, Sallett claims, that investigators expanded their list of suspects - now "Black Hat" and "White Hat" - and decided to go public with the Gloucester/Boylston video footage. But according to the detailed description of Sallett's FBI colleague Daniel R. Genck in the criminal complaint Tamerlan is easily identifiable in the Forum video:

Let's assume "White Hat" was identified in the Forum video on Tuesday, as suggested in the docudrama. The following questions then arise automatically:

Did the FBI staff rewind the surveillance tape to the moment when Dzhokhar is visible for the first time? If not, why not?

Did the FBI notice the person with the backpack standing together with Dzhokhar half-block from the Forum restaurant (at Atlantic Fish)? If not, why not?

Did the FBI notice this person walking towards the location where the first bomb exploded and passing directly in front of the Forum? If not, why not?

Why did the FBI not go public with the Forum video? Why did they have to wait for the Gloucester/Boylston video?

The only way to discharge the FBI of such grotesque and unprecedented incompetence is to charge them of lying in front of the camera of National Geographic.