The helicopters began buzzing around Revere last Thursday afternoon.
Soon, they were followed by an army of media vans, trucks and reporters.
The convergence of local and national media came straight to Revere – the Hampton Inn to be exact.
Revere Police and City officials scratched their heads initially at the mob of media congregated around the hotel, as did residents and others. Upon first inquiries from the Journal, police weren’t sure what was going on at the hotel to draw the media in such numbers.
Had there been an act of violence?
Were there hostages taken?
The answer to all those questions was no.
In the end, it turned out to be the Tsarnaev family – extended family members of convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dhokhar Tsarnaev who had been flown into Logan Airport from abroad and were staying at Revere’s Hampton Inn. They were staying on the taxpayer dime, it was learned, and had around the clock security from the FBI.
Revere Police Chief Joe Cafarelli said his department didn’t know anything about the situation until it became public. That, he said, he understood due to security concerns. However, things got out of hand when the local media were tipped off about the arrival of the Tsarnaevs, and followed the FBI vans via helicopter to the Revere hotel. That created a maelstrom, he said, that Revere Police were kind of left to clean up.
“Obviously, they tried to keep it as quiet and low-key as possible and somehow the information got out about their arrival and it turned into a bit of a circus,” he said. “We inherited that…When they put the Tsarnaev family in the Hampton Inn, it would have been fine if no one knew. It really became a problem later when some hotel guests were approached by the media and asked for statements. Some of the publicity seekers outside of the mainstream media were also trying to get guests to go inside and take pictures of the Tsarnaev family . We had to have a sit-down meeting with some members of the mainstream press to set down some guidelines. It went well; we have a very cooperative relationship.”
Mayor Dan Rizzo said it would have been nice to have more discussion about the move to bring the family to Revere – just for a measure of preparation.
“Our Police Department was notified at the last minute that the witnesses would be staying at the Hampton Inn in Revere and would have round the clock security provided by close to a dozen FBI agents,” said the mayor. “While we were encouraged by this federal protection, we wanted our own department to be engaged in the process to protect the City’s interests, particularly in the event of a security breach or other event that would jeopardize the safety and welfare of revere residents. Thankfully, all went off without incident.”
That was, indeed, the case.
By Saturday, the saga of the Tsarnaev family in Revere had ended as they were shipped off to another hotel in another location.
Cafarelli said they were not a threat, but their presence was a surprise and a problem for local police and the hotel.
“I didn’t care where they went, as long as they left Revere,” said Cafarelli, who played a key part two years ago in apprehending Tsarnaev in Watertown. “They were no threat to the city. Do you want them staying here? No. I don’t get to make those decisions, but they were here for legitimate reasons as witnesses in the case. However, when it became such a media focal point, it became a public safety concern for us and disrupted the daily operations of the hotel, which has been a good partner with the City for many years.”
He said the family left on Saturday without incident and to a more secretive location.
“It’s just one more chapter in the Tsarnaev case; it keeps circling back to Revere,” he concluded.