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Boston bomb victim in photo helped identify suspects

Minutes before the bombs blew up in Boston, Jeff Bauman looked into the eyes of the man who tried to kill him

Just before 3 p.m. on Monday, Bauman was waiting among the crowd for his girlfriend to cross the finish line at the Boston Marathon. A man wearing a cap, sunglasses and a black jacket over a hooded sweatshirt looked at Jeff, 27, and dropped a bag at his feet, his brother, Chris Bauman, said in an interview.

Two and a half minutes later, the bag exploded, tearing Jeff's legs apart. A picture of him in a wheelchair, bloodied and ashen, was broadcast around the world as he was rushed to Boston Medical Center. He lost both legs below the knee.

"He woke up under so much drugs, asked for a paper and pen and wrote, 'bag, saw the guy, looked right at me,'" Chris Bauman said yesterday in an interview.

Those words may have helped crack the mystery of who perpetrated one of the highest-profile acts of terror in the U.S. since the 2001 assault on New York City and the Washington area, one that killed three people and wounded scores.

The Boston area was on lockdown this morning after law enforcement officials killed one suspect in the bombing and were hunting another, following a night of violent clashes between the two men and authorities that killed a Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus policy officer.

The suspect still at large is said to be Dzhokar Tsarnaev, 19, a foreign national believed to have been in the country for more than a year, according to a federal law enforcement official. The individual identified as the second suspect in the attack is his brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who was 26, according to the official.

He was killed this morning by law enforcement. Jeff Bauman's face-to-face confrontation with one of them may have yielded key clues in the manhunt, which intensified yesterday after the Federal Bureau of Investigation released video images of two men.

While still in intensive care, Bauman gave the FBI a description of the man he saw, his brother said. Bauman's information helped investigators narrow down whom to look for in hours of video of the attack, he said.

In the images released yesterday, both men have on hooded sweatshirts under dark jackets; one is wearing a light-colored baseball cap turned backward on his head, while the other is wearing a dark baseball cap facing forward. Both are carrying large backpacks.

"I've had many times alone with him, and yes, he told me every single detail," Chris Bauman said. Paul Bresson, an FBI spokesman in Washington, declined to comment on specific tips in the investigation. Two FBI agents interviewed at the Boston office declined to confirm or deny the account.

Jeff Bauman wouldn't be the last to look into the eyes of one of the suspects.

The hunt for the brothers touched off chaos and violence overnight that included a convenience store robbery and carjacking that escalated into the fatal shooting of the MIT officer.

When police confronted the suspects, a gun battle ensued that resulted in the shooting of a transit police officer, who is in serious condition, according to David Procopio, a Massachusetts State Police spokesman.

On Monday, Remy Lawler, 25, was standing with Bauman, said her father, Arthur Lawler, of Amesbury. Shortly before the explosion, Remy, who's the roommate of Jeff's girlfriend, Erin Hurley, moved closer to the finish line, away from Bauman and another friend, to take better photographs. She suffered a baseball-sized shrapnel wound.

Shortly after, Lawler called her mother's cell phone and left a message in which she cried "Mom! Mom!" Medics could be heard telling her, "You're going to be all right," her father said. "She feels guilty about a lot of this -- that she wasn't with her friends," Arthur Lawler said.

It would take hours before the Bauman family knew what had happened to Jeff. They learned about it the way much of the world did: the grisly image on television of their son being wheeled from the scene, his lower legs destroyed.

Erika Schneider, Bauman's sister, saw it first. "She called my mom, freaking out," Chris said. Chris was working at a McDonald's near their home in Concord, New Hampshire, when his mother called him. "Chris, you have to sprint home," she said. "Something's happened."

Boston bomb victim in photo helped identify suspects 04/19/13 [Last modified: Friday, April 19, 2013 10:29am]
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