Carjacking Victim Of Boston Suspects Recalls Harrowing Night

Robert Siegel talks to Boston Globe metro reporter Eric Moskowitz about the man who was carjacked by the Tsarnaev brothers last week. The carjack victim's escape was pivotal to tracking the suspects down, and may have stopped them from launching another attack in New York City.

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A 26-year-old Chinese engineer turned entrepreneur who is in Boston developing a start-up played one of the more interesting and dangerous roles in the Boston Marathon bombing manhunt. He was driving the Mercedes SUV that he'd leased when it and he were carjacked by the Tsarnaev brothers. He escaped when they stopped for gas. Ever since, this man has kept a very low profile, but he did give an exclusive two-and-a-half-hour interview to Boston Globe reporter Eric Moskowitz, who joins us now. Welcome.

ERIC MOSKOWITZ: Thank you, Robert.

SIEGEL: And first, in your story, you called this man simply Danny. I gather he doesn't want his name to be known.

MOSKOWITZ: That's correct.

SIEGEL: Well, first, the carjacking, how does Danny describe it?

MOSKOWITZ: Danny had gone out for kind of a joyride, blow off some steam at the end of his workday, gets a text. And this tells you something about Danny. He pulls over to the side of the road to answer the text. And as he's answering the text message, an old sedan - I mean, what you might consider like a beater of a car - pulls in very abruptly behind him. And then a guy in dark clothes gets out, comes up to the passenger window and raps on it. And that's Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the older brother.

SIEGEL: Is he armed, Tamerlan?

MOSKOWITZ: He is armed. Danny doesn't know that first. So Tamerlan is speaking to the window, Danny lowers it to hear him. And when he does that, Tamerlan sticks his arms through the window, opens the door of Danny's Mercedes, climbs into the passenger seat and point a silver handgun at him.

He says, you know, don't be stupid. Have you followed the news about the marathon? And Danny says, yes. And he says, I did that, and I just killed a policeman in Cambridge. And he asked for Danny's money. It turns out Danny only has $45 of cash on him. Tamerlan tells him to drive.

And so now, Danny is in his own moving car with Tamerlan in the passenger seat and what turns out to be Tamerlan's younger brother following their car.

SIEGEL: And he actually gets a call on his cell phone while he's with them.

MOSKOWITZ: First, he gets a text. And so Danny has two roommates who are Chinese. One of them actually is someone he met on his first plane flight to the U.S., and that roommate texts Danny and says - in Chinese - where are you? Are you OK? And so, Tamerlan, the older brother takes the phone and is savvy enough to ask Danny, do you have an English-to-Chinese dictionary app? He says he does. He goes to the app. He types in, I'm sick, I'm sleeping with a friend. It spits back Chinese characters. Tamerlan swipes his finger, copies that, pastes it into the text message in response to Danny's roommate.

It is in Chinese, but it's not Danny's voice in Chinese. And so the roommate writes back thinking something is weird. This time there's no response. Then the roommate's boyfriend calls, they don't answer the phone. The phone rings again. And Tamerlan this time says, you're going to answer it? If you say a single word in Chinese, I will kill you right now. So Danny, in English, says I'm sick, sorry, I have to go. And Tamerlan says, good boy, good job.

SIEGEL: Now, when all three of them were in the Mercedes, did the brothers speak to each other in English or in Russian? Do we know?

MOSKOWITZ: They spoke to Danny in English. When they spoke to each other, it was in a language Danny didn't understand. And the one word he picks out in this language that is unfamiliar is Manhattan. Later, when they're driving around, they asked Danny if his car can be driven out of state. He says, what do you mean? And they say, like New York. That's the second clue that if they can get away, they're headed to New York.

SIEGEL: The car needs gas. Describe what happens.

MOSKOWITZ: Sure. They get to the Shell station on Memorial Drive in Cambridge where Danny finally seizes his chance to escape.

SIEGEL: He's no longer in the driver's seat of the Mercedes.

MOSKOWITZ: Correct. When they get to the gas station, the younger brother gets out of the backseat, goes to fill it up, and then a couple of seconds later he's rapping on the window. And the younger brother says, cash only. So Tamerlan peels off $50 and says, fill it up with V-Power, the high-test stuff. So the younger brother goes into the store, and that leaves Danny alone in the car with the older brother. And he notices at that moment that the gun is in the door cubby and that Tamerlan has both hands on the GPS and he's fiddling with the GPS.

So Danny's thinking about it, he opens his seatbelt, he opens the door. He managed to run at an angle between the car and the gas pumps, just praying that the other gas station across the way is open.

SIEGEL: At one point, he told you what he was thinking about, what his worst fear - one of his worst fears was throughout the...

MOSKOWITZ: Yeah. There was - this is a moment where he really thought they're about to kill him. And, you know, he said he was thinking about two things. One was that his start-up was literally just getting started and the other was that there was this girl in New York that he liked and he hadn't a chance to tell her yet.

You know, Danny, after being with the police for 15 hours after this happened, is finally sent, you know, dropped off back at his apartment. And they find out that night that the, you know, that the younger brother, Dzhokhar, has been found in a boat. And Danny's roommate calls out to him. And at that moment, Danny was on the phone in his room talking to the girl in New York.


SIEGEL: Well, it's an incredible story, and thank you very much for telling it to us.

MOSKOWITZ: Thank you.

SIEGEL: It's Boston Globe reporter Eric Moskowitz.



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