CAMBRIDGE—The “controlled explosions” that bomb technicians had planned to conduct on Norfolk Street near Inman Square were not necessary, according to the State Police. Authorities had been concerned that a car near the home where the brothers suspected of being the Boston Marathon bombers had recently lived contained an explosive, but it did not, according to state police.
The scene was declared to be “clear” around 5 p.m. Police would not comment on whether any thing was found in the brothers’ home.
Earlier in the afternoon, State Police Colonel Timothy Alben told reporters that the planned explosions by bomb disposal technicians were meant to protect the law enforcement officials searching through the residence and neighborhood where Dzhokar A. Tsarnaev and his older brother, Tamerlan were residents.
The two men are accused of building at least two bombs that were sent off near the finish line at the Boston Marathon on Monday, killing three people and wounding more than 170.
Authorities closed off Norfolk Street between Cambridge and Webster streets near Inman Square early Friday morning, and police escorted residents from their homes and scoured the area around the suspects’ apartment. Many neighbors and some nearby business owners reflected on what they knew about the pair.
Gilberto Junior, 44, the owner of Junior’s Autobody in Somerville on Columbia Road, said Dzhokar A. Tsarnaev had dropped off a white Mercedes station wagon two weeks ago to have the bumper repaired. Junior said he hadn’t yet touched the vehicle when Dzhokar A. Tsarnaev returned Tuesday afternoon demanding the car.
Junior said that Tsarnaev appeared to be nervous, sitting down and biting his nails with his knees shaking, so much so that he thought he had been “popping pills.”
Junior told him that he wasn’t finished with the car, but says that the younger Tsarnaev emphatically replied: “I need it now.”
Junior, who is from Brazil, said the suspect often dropped off vehicles to get fixed, and he always paid in cash.
Junior described him as a very nice, likeable man and added he was shocked upon learning that he was connected to the bombings.
There were some tense moments around Norfolk Street today. At about 10 a.m., officials pushed media and residents back away from the scene down to Tremont Street, and then even further away. The intense focus continued into mid-morning and police appeared to be getting reinforcements from the military. Shortly after 10:30 a.m., a small convoy of military vehicles, apparently from the Massachusetts National Guard, streamed into the neighborhood, with soldiers dressed in full combat gear.
People curious about the police activity came out of their homes and shops on Cambridge Street and gathered to see what was going on, taking photos with their cellphones. Families walked through the crowds, some in their pajamas, clearly roused from their sleep.
Dozens of journalists assembled across the street, their camera lenses focused on the activity. Residents expressed shock that the suspects lived so close by. Numerous onlookers congregated at all corners of the intersection. Shops in the area and throughout Cambridge are closed except for a Shell gas station on Cambridge street, roughly three blocks away from Norfolk Street.
Peter Hanley, 31, a software engineer at Fidelity Investments in Boston, said police knocked on his door at 8 a.m. Hanley said he was “spooked” and extremely worried about his and other residents’ safety. He said there were a few houses on the street with teenagers, and that the suspects didn’t stand out.
Deana Beaulieu, 20, of Cambridge, said she has known one of the suspects since seventh grade at Community Charter School of Cambridge in Kendall Square, a small school. They both went on to Cambridge Rindge and Latin. When she woke up Friday morning and heard the news, and then someone posted his high school yearbook photo on Instagram, she immediately recognized him. “We used to call him ‘Jahar,’ “ she said. “We didn’t really know how to pronounce his name.”
“He was just quiet,” she said.
In charter school, she said that he “kept to himself, he wasn’t really the outgoing type. He wasn’t really popular. They were a nice family. I don’t remember meeting his parents, but I did meet his sister, and she was really nice.”
Beaulieu said she last saw him at the school’s 2011 graduation. She described him as a quiet, almost shy guy who participated on the wrestling team.
Ty Barros, 21, of Cambridge, has been a friend of Dzhokar Tsarnaev’s older sister, Elena, for the past several years. But Barros said he also hung out with Dzhokar Tsarnaev during their high school years.
Their main activity, he said, was smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol, Barros said.
He also said they both attended the Islamic Society of Boston mosque on nearby Prospect Street.
But long-time members of the mosque today said they could not remember ever seeing him there. The members sternly rebuked any notion that their religion played a role in the bombings.
Ali Shambaz, 26, of Somerville, said “Every religion has its own fanatics and there are always those people who are crazy.”
Shambaz, a student at Bunker Hill Community College, walked into the mosque for a noontime prayer.
Sheith Sadeddin, 17, of Medford, said that he has been coming to the mosque his entire life. He said the Friday services are usually packed with about 150 to 200 people.
“We are all shocked here,” he said. “This doesn’t define Islam. We’re not about that, we’re about peace.”