A long night of violent drama unfolded early Friday outside the Watertown, Mass., bedroom window of Edina native Andrew Kitzenberg as heavily armed law enforcers closed in on the two suspects in the deadly Boston Marathon bombings, at one point leading to bullets puncturing his apartment.
The peril for Kitzenberg, 26, reignited shortly after 7:30 a.m. Twin Cities time Friday as he was telling his story in a telephone interview.
“Oh, holy ...” Kitzenberg said. “The suspect might be ... I’m going to have to call you back.”
One of his latest of many tweets, posted shortly before 8 a.m., read: “Suspect may be in 18 oak st. Next door to us. 9 brave people in a basement,” followed by “Evacuated for the 2nd time out of a house on oak st. Laurel st. is still off limits.”
In a text message exchange with the Star Tribune at about 8:30 a.m., Kitzenberg was asked whether it was safe to talk on the phone: “No,” was the sum of his response.
Shortly after 11:30 a.m. CDT, Kitzenberg posted a video showing military helicopters flying over the neighborhood as the meticulous pursuit of the suspect stretched toward afternoon in a 20-block area of Watertown, which also includes the Laurel Street apartment of another native Minnesotan, 32-year-old Meghan Marrer, of St. Cloud.
Boston, nearby Watertown and other surrounding communities are in a war zone of sorts as pursuit of the surviving suspect pressed on after a night of violence that left the other suspect dead. Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis made the announcement that the entire city should stay indoors as the remaining suspect, described as a dangerous terrorist, was still on the loose.
The developments came after the suspects killed an MIT police officer overnight, injured a transit officer in a firefight and threw explosive devices at police during their getaway attempt, authorities said.
A law enforcement intelligence bulletin obtained by the AP identified the surviving bomb suspect as Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev, 19, who had been living in Cambridge, just outside Boston, and said he “may be armed and dangerous.”
Before cutting off the call, Kitzenberg said he was working at his computer shortly before 1 a.m. and had just turned off the Minnesota Wild hockey game on television, when “I heard gunshots. I peeked through the window and saw two shooters between two cars.”
It was at that point that Kitzenberg, a high school graduate of Breck and then Babson College in Boston, sought safety amid the renewed tension outside his third-floor apartment.
Kitzenberg, an entrepreneur who started a company that makes rubbery wristbands that hold USB flash drives, then fired up his Twitter account and reported that he was now “in the neighbors house on oak st. Cops searching all around us.” He also posted numerous photos and videos as part of his overnight account.
His first tweet early Friday said there were shots “outside my room in Watertown. 62 Laurel st.”
From there, his stream of tweets told of “5 minutes of gunfire and pressure cooker bomb,” “PD claiming IED’s on the street,” “Crashed cop car with all windows shot out in our driveway,” “Bullet hole through our wall and the chair.” Among the photos he put on Twitter was his roommate’s bullet-riddled chair.
Kitzenberg continued to track the movements of police as they went through backpacks, with bomb squad personnel scouring the area and eventually his apartment building being evacuated by “military with assault weapons around 6 We’re all safe.”
Since he began tweeting, Kitzenberg has been picking up followers by the thousands.
In the brief calm that Kitzenberg experienced overnight, he told the New York Times that a suspect had what looked “like a pressure cooker.”
“They lit it, still in the middle of the gunfire, and threw it. But it went 20 yards at most” before it exploded, he told the Times.
Kitzenberg’s father, Lee, said he was getting updates from the son he described as “in shock” from all the mayhem around him. Andrew was hustled out of his apartment so quickly by police that he left his cell phone behind, the father said.
Lee Kitzenberg said he’s glad he only found out later that Andrew had been snapping photos for two to three hours from a window.
“That does sound like Andrew,” the father said. “He likes the extreme sports.”
Down Laurel Street from Kitzenberg’s home and also rendered immobilized by the lockdown is St. Cloud Cathedral High School graduate Marrer, and her fiance, Adam Andrew.
Marrer said their apartment was one of many on the street that was sprayed with bullets as the older suspect was killed overnight. She said that they didn’t realize at first that bullets had penetrated their home as they were sleeping.
“The gunfire came within 15 feet of our bed,” she said. “That’s close enough for us, yeah.”
As they wait out the tension outside as the lockdown stretches well into the afternoon, Marrer described the scene as “very surreal. ... We are watching the national news feed everyone else is, and it’s happening right around the corner for us.”
She said police have come to their home and collected bullets and snapped photographs.
The upheaval on Laurel Street has kept Marrer and Andrew from keeping an appointment in Saratoga, Fla., with a wedding planner ahead of their May nuptials.
Marrer said she didn’t know that a fellow Minnesotan, Kitzenberg, was in the same lockdown boat about 100 yards down Laurel.
“We’ll have to introduce ourselves when this is over,” she said.