Fifty-six. That was the number of cartridge casings recovered from the scene of the 2013 Watertown shootout that authorities say came from the gun used by Tamerlan Tsarnaev to hold police at bay. There were 251 cartridges recovered from the scene altogether.


This is just one of the findings of a new report examining the use of force in Watertown on the morning of April 19, 2013, that was released by Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan Wednesday. But the most significant finding has long been suspected: that MBTA police officer Richard Donohue was injured by friendly fire.

It has been one of those lingering questions related to the Boston Marathon bombing investigation and trial. Who shot Donohue the night he responded to an alert in Watertown that fellow officers were under attack from gunmen?

“It is likely that it came from the gun of one of the officers who was attempting to stop Dzhokhar Tsarnaev,” Ryan said.

Ryan says "likely" because the fragment in Donahue’s body has not been removed, so it has not been examined.

"… and will not be removed at this point unless it becomes medically necessary,” said Ryan. "Because the surgery to remove that is potentially life threatening to him. It is impossible to know fully without that information, from which gun that bullet came. But it is highly likely that that gun was fired by one of the individuals attempting to stop the armed Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was fleeing."

But friendly fire is the only conclusion that could be reached because of another factor: Dzhokhar Tsarnaev at that point during the violent confrontation was the last bomber standing, and he, by all accounts, did not have a gun.

Ryan says that the four-way intersection at Dexter Street and Laurel Avenue was filled with 19 cops who fired on the surviving marathon bombing suspect as he drove toward them in a stolen Mercedes SUV, as Laurel Street residents looked on behind curtains and doors.

“The kid was taking off in the SUV, because there was a police vehicle here, and he smashed right behind where my car is now, and he smashed into that," said Jean McDonald, a longtime resident of Laurel Street. "So I think that they were aiming at the SUV trying to get him to stop."

McDonald points toward the driveway a few feet away. This is where fellow officers tried to stem a gusher of blood spewing from Donohue’s leg moments after he was shot. The finding of probable friendly fire comes as no surprise to McDonald.

"Because I know there was a lot of cops here shooting, so I’m not surprised by that," she said. "I think everybody was lucky on this street that nobody [else] got hurt”

Watertown Police Chief Ed Deveau says the shootout in his town transformed his community both inside and out.

"I guess for lack of a better term, it put us on the map," he said. "A lot of people didn’t know where Watertown was before this happened. But I think the community, this police department and our officers, I think, we're — and myself as the police chief — just extremely proud of how the police department stood up and this community stood up and supported us."

Deveau pauses, and rolls the calendar back more than two years and a month to the day.

"For the first time in America, a police officer gets shot at and has bombs thrown, and it’s two or three Watertown police officers on the backstreets in Watertown that experienced this," he said. "But I think the community was incredible at the same time. The neighborhood has always been supportive of us — Laurel Street. There's that 'victory garden' where John and Joel were behind that tree, and lucky to be alive with bullet holes in that tree. And then to see them come out and support us on the streets of Watertown after the capture in the boat. I’ve been a cop for 32 years. I grew up here in Watertown and it was my proudest moment to be a Watertown guy but also to be a cop."

The shootout and violence have receded into history but the memory of April 19 — reinforced by the Boston Marathon trial — is as strong as ever for school teacher Andy Fehlner, whose home on Laurel Street was riddled with bullets coming from the direction of the police.

“But at the same time, I don’t think it will do any good to target the police in a way that assumes that there was some desire to do harm,” Fehlner said.

The chirping of birds, the playfulness of children and the soft patter of spring rain fails to erase memories of shots fired, a policeman felled by a bullet and families huddled together in fear.

"I think they did everything they thought was right at the time," Fehlner said. "I think they were untrained for the situation they had to deal with, and I think that you can definitely make the argument that they fired off more shots than they needed or should have, that they’re lucky that no one [else] was hurt. But I think in their minds that they were scared. They were having bombs thrown at them and they were doing all that they could, given the training that they had to deal with the situation.”

Ryan concluded that the shots fired by police just after midnight on April 19, 2013 were justified given the circumstances: a furious battle with a man firing a gun and another tossing improvised explosives on a quiet street in Watertown.

“It is the finding of this office that the use of deadly force by the officers that were on the scene in respect to Tamerlan Tsarnaev, any injuries that may have ben sustained by Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and the injury to MBTA Officer Donahue, that the use of deadly force was warranted and justified based upon the deadly force with which the officers were confronted, and their use of deadly force was justified in defense of themselves, defense of other officers, and residents of the neighborhood,” Ryan said.

Now, with the release of this latest report on the shootout Fehlner and his young family hope that life on Laurel Street will return to what it was before.

"There’s not a story here anymore, and it’s OK to move on," he said.

But moving on, says Fehlner, hardly suggests that he will ever forget what happened here on Laurel Street.