Boston - FBI agents searching for the accused Boston Marathon bomber surrounded an apartment where two of the suspect's friends were living and trained the laser scopes of sniper rifles on them, a federal agent testified on Wednesday.
Four days after the bombing, heavily armed law enforcement agents surrounded the building where two college friends of accused bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev lived, acting on information, later proven incorrect, that the suspect was hiding in there.
“They focused their laser-scoped rifles, their long weapons, on the occupants inside,” after the pair, both Kazakh nationals, peered out the window at the surrounding police, FBI special agent John Walker testified at a pre-trial hearing.
They would likely have been able to see the red laser dots of the sites on their bodies, Walker acknowledged.
The two Kazakh exchange students, Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov, as well as Robel Phillipos of Cambridge, Massachusetts, have been charged with hampering the probe into the April 15, 2013, bombing attack that killed three people and injured more than 260.
Kadyrbayev's attorneys have argued that his early statements to investigators, made after the raid on his New Bedford, Massachusetts, apartment were made while he was held by police after a warrantless search of his property and should not be admitted at his trial, due to begin in June.
Kadyrbayev, who was brought handcuffed to a state police barracks and was held shirtless during hours of questioning by police, is also expected to take this stand this week to describe the experience.
Lawyers for Tazhayakov and Phillipos withdrew request that U.S. District Judge Douglas Woodlock suppress their early statements, saying that they did not wish to have their clients testify after separate trials to begin in September.
Kadyrbayev, Tazhayakov, as well as Kadyrbayev's girlfriend, were questioned and held hours after Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev engaged in an overnight gunbattle with police that left Tamerlan dead, but which Dzhokhar escaped.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, now 20, was later found hiding in a drydocked boat in a backyard in Watertown, Massachusetts, near the site of the gunbattle and about 55 miles north of the site of the New Bedford raid.
None of the friends were charged with taking part in the attack, but prosecutors contend the three went to Tsarnaev's dorm room three days later and removed a backpack and laptop computer as police searched for the suspected bomber.
Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov face conspiracy and obstruction of justice charges, which carry a penalty of up to 25 years in prison, while Phillipos faces a less serious charge of lying to investigators, which could mean a possible 16-year sentence.
Marc Fucarile, who lost his right leg in the bombing attack, attended Wednesday's hearing wearing a T-shirt bearing the “Boston Strong” slogan that served as rallying cry for the city after the largest mass-casualty attack on the United States since Sept. 11, 2001.