Watertown Police Chief Edward Deveau recalls harrowing confrontation with Boston Marathon suspects
(In the coming weeks, you’ll see in our series at FOXSports.com what the Boston bombing means to more than two dozen people directly affected at last year’s marathon. So 2014 is the comeback, because 2013 was the knockdown. This is our fourth installment. Read their stories.)
Watertown Police Chief Edward Deveau was asleep in his home during the early hours of April 19, 2013, when he received a call that would drastically change the identity of his town.
“Chief, they’re shooting at us,” Deveau recalled hearing when he picked up the phone. “They’re throwing bombs at us, and I think these are the guys that killed the MIT officer [Sean Collier].”
Deveau struggled at first to comprehend what he was hearing, but within seconds it became clear.
“I can hear the dispatch noise in the background,” Deveau said, “and then I hear a huge explosion, and I was like, ‘Oh my God. It’s come to us.’”
Deveau grabbed whatever he needed from his home and rushed to Laurel Street, where alleged Boston Marathon bombers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev engaged the five Watertown Police officers, who were working the night shift, in a gunfight.
Over the course of the next 24 hours, Deveau’s department – along with members of the National Guard, the FBI, the Massachusetts State Police and other forms of law enforcement – scoured the area in a manhunt that only ended when Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was found in a Watertown resident’s boat and captured.
“A couple of the decisions that my officers made down on Laurel Street, to save their lives, to save the lives of those people in the neighborhood, to make sure they didn’t get away and kill more people were just incredible,” Deveau said. “They’ll be taught in police academies in the future the decisions they made without any training on what to do in that situation.”
Chief, they’re shooting at us. They’re throwing bombs at us, and I think these are the guys that killed the MIT officer [Sean Collier].
-Edward Deveau recalling the call that woke him in the middle of the night
As weeks passed, Deveau and his department adjusted to a new normal. They spoke humbly, replying to questions about their heroism by saying it was their job to handle the situation in Watertown and that the officers from nearby areas who came to help were the real heroes. Now, nearly a year after the twin bombings on Boylston Street killed three and inflicted life-altering injuries upon hundreds more, a dozen Watertown police officers are training to run the marathon in their honor.
“It almost became like that’s what we need to do,” Deveau said of the decision to run this year. “We want to make Boston a better place, and [this] year’s marathon is going to be the best ever. We want to be a part of it.”
Thus, in the fall when the Boston Athletic Association announced that it would give a limited amount of bibs to prospective runners who submitted a 250-word essay detailing how they were profoundly impacted by the attacks, Deveau penned an essay detailing the bravery of his department. His account earned him one of those bibs.
Even before last year’s events, though, the marathon held a special place in Deveau’s mind. As a child, Deveau and his friends would cheer on runners as they made their way through one of the most challenging parts of the course, Heartbreak Hill in Newton, Mass.
“You had to go to the marathon,” Deveau, who can see his childhood home out of his office window, said. “The whole idea was go some place and cheer people on, and you go to Heartbreak Hill. … I remember going there with my buddies and just spending the afternoon there, trying to encourage people to go up the hill, so it’s always been in my blood.”
That connection to the race led Deveau to prepare for the 1999 Boston Marathon while he spent three months in Quantico, Va., for FBI training. He participated in his second marathon the following April. Deveau then took a break from the race before a return in 2007.
“It’s only the Boston Marathon – it’s the only marathon I would run,” Deveau said. “There’s nothing like Boston.”
The 57-year-old Deveau intended to run the marathon every five years after 2007, but he found that when he began training in 2012, his body did not respond well. After the events that occurred last April, though, Deveau knew that he needed to try the race once again, and he had a small contingent of officers who were ready to make the commitment with him.
“That’s our holiday,” Deveau said. “You can’t grow up in Boston without it being a big deal, and it was like a huge punch in the stomach. You got knocked down. It hurt – it really hurt a lot of us.”
In previous years, the police chief cared about his results when he ran the race. He was concerned about his time and whether he had beaten his personal best. This time, though, he plans to focus on something entirely different as he makes his way through the 26.2 miles.
“There’s no goal. … I just want to run the race from Hopkinton all the way through to the finish line and just enjoy it and look at the people that are having a good time – take it all in,” Deveau said.
"And then, to come down Boylston Street, and see all those stores back open again – see the Forum Restaurant, see Marathon Sports open again – and everybody having a good time, I think it’ll be very emotional for anybody that’s running the marathon to the make that turn onto Boylston Street.”