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BOSTON — During the manhunt for Boston Marathon bombing suspects Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, FBI agents combed the brothers' Cambridge, Massachusetts, apartment for evidence and found an array of nails, BBs, wire, a battery charger, a fuse and parts of pressure cookers that they considered possible ingredients of a homemade bomb like those used to kill three people and injure hundreds at the race's finish line, one of the agents told a jury Wednesday.
One of the rooms “almost looked like a construction site," Special Agent Christopher Derks said, testifying in the terror trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the younger of the brothers. "There were tools everywhere, lots of debris."
The search, on April 19, 2013 — four days after the bombings — took place as the hunt for the brothers was approaching a culmination. That day, Tamerlan, 26, was killed during a shootout with police and Dzhokhar, 19 at the time, was found many hours later hiding in a boat parked behind a Watertown, Massachusetts, house.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was a student at the University of Massachusetts, where he lived in a dormitory, and had most recently lived in the apartment on Norfolk Street in Cambridge, with his brother, his brother's wife and their daughter.
The dorm room was also searched. An FBI agent testified Tuesday and Wednesday about finding a box of BBs and a receipt for a Smith & Wesson BB gun, the same kind found at the shootout scene. Agents also found a white hat that matched the one he was wearing when he was captured on security video at the bombing scene. A large firework and a book about Islamic fighters in Afghanistan and Pakistan were also in the room.
The search of the apartment came after FBI agents blew the front door off and searched the place to make sure it was not booby trapped with explosives. The evidence technicians began collecting all kinds of material that could be used in the making of a bomb, Derks said.
Among the items they found were a jar of nails, a caulking gun, an array of tools, rolls of wire and tape, lengths of hobby fuse, a soldering iron, and the gasket and lid of a pressure cooker, Derks said. They also found a BB gun, a BB gun target, gun cleaning equipment, flags with Muslim inscriptions, and some of the brothers' personal items, including Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's passport and tax documents.
The point was to help prove the younger Tsarnaev's involvement in the attack. But his defense lawyers tried to raise doubts of his activity at the apartment. They even objected to the government's label of an illustration of the apartment, "Residence of Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev." The label was allowed.
Later on Wednesday, an FBI agent described efforts to link the pressure cooker bombs detonated at the marathon and thrown at cops in Watertown to the Tsarnaev brothers, using data from GPS devices, store receipts and surveillance footage.
Another agent told the jury how investigators found a backpack, thumb drive, fireworks and other items allegedly belonging to Dzhokar Tsarnaev in a landfill the week after the bombings. The discovery was prompted by the questioning of a friend, Dias Kadyrbayev, who later pleaded guilty to taking the items from the dorm and throwing it in the trash.
A third agent testified about text messages found on Tsarnaev's laptop. One of them that he received from another person read, "I'm really down with that Jihad life." In another, Tsarnaev wrote, "I got a plan I'll tell you later about it."
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—Tom Winter, Andy Thibault and Jon Schuppe