The Boston Marathon bombers were hell-bound for New York City -- until eight small town cops, in 12 hair-raising minutes, stood bravely in their way.
In an exclusive interview, the heroes of the 68-officer Watertown Mass. Police Department sat down with The Post to describe, blow-by-harrowing blow, their takedown of Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
The two brothers had already killed three and injured 264 Marathon-goers, and had gone on to fatally shoot an MIT cop, when the crackle of police radios at 12:41 a.m. on April 19 heralded their presence in the four-square-mile town just northwest of Boston.
The brothers' plan? Blow through Watertown, and hit Times Square, authorities since learned -- with the younger brother, Dzhokhar, driving a Honda Civic and Tamerlan driving a hijacked Mercedes holding two firearms, five bombs and a terrified hostage.
The brothers didn't count on two veteran sergeants and six younger officers -- one with only four months experience -- engaging the desperate brothers in a pavement-shaking, bomb-and-bullet firefight on leafy, picket-fence-lined Laurel Street.
Eight, men, 12 minutes. Some 250 bullets would be exchanged in the firefight, leaving one officer to nearly bleed out at the scene. Three of the department's police cars would be destroyed by the last of the brothers' arsenal: two pipe bombs and another rigged pressure cooker like the one that had ripped through the Marathon four days earlier. Two other pipe bombs were flung, but did not explode.
"You think about 9-11 all the time," one of our Watertown heroes, Sgt. John MacLellan, told The Post.
"New York’s had their share. It’s nice to give them a break for once.”
Minute One: 12:41 a.m.
Watertown's police dispatcher alerted all units that Cambridge police had traced the GPS of a carjacked, 2013 black Mercedes SUV to their jurisdiction. The vehicle was moving southbound on Dexter Avenue.
"I was in my patrol car, just doing routine patrol," said Officer Joseph Reynolds, a seven-year veteran of Watertown Police and the first cop out of literally more than 1,000 pursuing officers from a dozen agencies to lay eyes on the two brothers.
But Reynolds and his fellow officers had no idea who they were about to confront.
"I told Officer Reynolds please don't pull the car over until you have backup, due to the fact that it was an armed carjacking," Sgt. MacLellan remembered. "The next transmission is Officer Reynolds saying, 'I have the car. I'm behind the Mercedes."
Minute Two: 12:42 a.m.
"The Civic was in front and the Mercedes was in back," Officer Reynolds remembered. "As I drove by, I made eye contact with Tamerlan…We both kind of looked at each other. I radioed dispatch that I had the vehicle…All of a sudden they stopped their [cars]. I stopped. I was probably two or three car lengths behind.
Tamerlan got out and started walking toward me. He lifted up his arms and started firing at me. I could hear [the bullets] going off my cruiser.”
Minute Three: 12:43 a.m.
Officer Reynolds reversed his cruiser some 30 yards, threw it into park, opened the driver's side door for cover, and started returning fire. Sgt. MacLellan had been approaching the scene in his own cruiser.
"I got on the radio and said it three times: 'Shots fired, shots fired, shots fired,'” MacLellan remembered. “As I put [my cruiser] in park, to figure out what we’re gonna do, I saw that [Tamerlan] went from Reynolds’ car to my car and shot, boom, right through the windshield. I got sprayed with glass as I was putting it in park. I said, ‘Holy s—t, they’re shooting at us!’
MacLellan tried but could not unlock the rifle between the seats. So he put his cruiser in drive, jumped out, and sent his empty vehicle rolling down the road toward the Tsarnaev brothers.
"My thing was, I didn’t know how many guys were there. I didn’t know what type of weapons they had. We weren’t set up. We weren’t ready for this. I needed to create some sort of diversion…they were engaging the vehicle and it was totally empty. It worked out great”.