Federal investigators have zeroed in on two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing that killed three and injured 175 more on April 15, releasing photos and video of the two men on Thursday in an appeal for the public to help locate and identify them.
The photos, published on the FBI’s website, offer the first public glimpse of the men investigators believe are responsible for planting separate homemade bombs near the finish line of the marathon on Boston’s Boylston Street. One of the men is pictured in a black cap, dark jacket, white T-shirt and tan-colored pants. The second man is wearing a white cap backwards and a dark jacket. Footage released by the FBI shows the two men toting backpacks as they walk, just a few paces apart, along a sidewalk crowded with bystanders.
Anyone with information on the suspects should call 800-CALL-FBI (800-225-5324) or go to bostonmarathontips.fbi.gov.
The first major break in the nationwide manhunt came after investigators combed through surveillance images and followed thousands of leads to identify a person of interest, which in turn led them to the second suspect, FBI special agent Richard DesLauriers told reporters at a Thursday afternoon news conference. According to DesLauriers, surveillance revealed the second suspect, in the white hat, placing a bag thought to contain a crude but effective homemade bomb in front of the Forum restaurant on Boylston Street near the finish line of the marathon, just minutes before the device detonated. He then went west on Boylston Street.
From there, it’s unclear where the two men — whoever they are — have gone. And so the FBI made the decision to release photos of the two men and set up a tip line to gather additional leads. “We know the public will play a critical role in identifying and locating these individuals,” DesLauriers said. “The nation is counting on those with information to come forward and provide it to us.”
“If you look at these video tapes there are thousands of people walking by over the course of a couple of minutes, so it takes 400, 500 views until you start to see the patterns evolve. So it’s a very labor-intensive process,” Boston police commissioner Ed Davis tells TIME.
The fact that the FBI labeled the men “suspects” vs. “persons of interest” indicates they have strong evidence that these are the men behind the bombings. Authorities are hoping that by crowdsourcing the identification with such clear imagery, the suspects will not only be identified but also located quickly. “We are diligently working on this,” Davis says. “We’re sparing no expense to find these guys. We are asking everybody to give us as much help as possible.”
The decision to publicize photos of the suspects comes three days into a frenetic scramble to identify the bombers before they slip away. “They’re off and running,” Republican Congressman Michael McCaul of Texas, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, told TIME on Thursday afternoon before the photos were unveiled. “Every day that goes by, the case gets a little bit colder and more difficult.”
The suspects are considered armed and dangerous, DesLauriers said, urging bystanders not to approach them. “Identifying and locating those responsible is now our highest priority,” he said. “This is our focus now.” And that of the country; within minutes, the FBI’s website buckled and crashed under the weight of search traffic.