Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Director’s Corner: Boston Marathon Bomber Handcuffs Donated to Museum

The Museum received a significant artifact during National Police Week this year. On May 12, Chief Paul MacMillan, of the MBTA Transit Police Department, presented Museum staff with the handcuffs used to restrain Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving brother of the duo identified as suspects in the April 15, 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. (Pictured left: Museum Executive Director Joe Urschel, MBTA Transit Police Chief Paul MacMillan, Memorial Fund Chairman & CEO Craig W. Floyd.)

According to Chief MacMillan, the cuffs belonged to Transit Police Officer Saro Thompson, who, together with a multi-jurisdictional SWAT team—including officers from the Revere and Malden (MA) Police Departments—restrained and arrested Tsarnaev three days after the bombing, on April 18.

Earlier that day, the Tsarnaev brothers were suspected of ambushing and killing MIT Patrol Officer Sean Collier, parked on the university’s campus. Chief MacMillan noted that the suspects tried several times to remove Collier’s gun from its holster, one that was specially designed to resist attempts to “snatch” a weapon from an officer. The fact that the Tsarnaev brothers were unable to steal Officer Collier’s weapon, due to the holster he used, probably saved many lives.

Officer Sean Collier’s name was among the 286 that were added to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial this year during the 26th annual Candlelight Vigil.

Artifact Spotlight: The Stories behind the Names

"Where Policeman Was Killed in Wild Bandit Chase,"
August 22, 1931.
Over the last eight years, the staff of the National Law Enforcement Museum has acquired thousands of artifacts, researched hundreds of stories, and browsed through tons of photographs. All in an effort to better understand the story of American law enforcement.

Sometimes in that effort we happen upon an image or an artifact that connects back to a name we already know—the name of an officer engraved on the walls of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.

The Museum recently acquired three photographs that related to two fallen officers who were killed 83 years ago: Patrolman Edwin V. Churchill and Patrolman Walter J. Webb of the New York (NY) Police Department.

"Cops Examine Guns Used by Bandits in
Wild Chase that Took Six Lives," August 22, 1931.
These patrolmen were both shot and killed, on August 21, 1931, during a running shootout through the Bronx and Manhattan with two bandits in a stolen taxicab. Four civilians also died in the shootout, which was widely covered in the newspapers at the time, though mostly forgotten today.

Examining those photographs, and other items like them, can be a solemn reminder of lives lost. But it is also exciting to know that with each piece of information and each historical artifact, the knowledge the Museum holds of the life and times of that fallen officer becomes richer and deeper. The more we know, the better we will tell the story when the Museum opens.