A federal grand jury released a sweeping indictment of Boston Marathon bombings suspect Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev Thursday, charging him with using weapons of mass destruction and killing four people. Officials also disclosed a note in which Tsarnaev said he wanted to punish the United States for the “evil” of hurting Muslims.
The 30-count indictment alleges that Tsarnaev had been inspired by Al Qaeda publications and that he left a confession in the boat in a Watertown backyard, where he was captured days after the bombings, saying, “I don’t like killing innocent people.”
He noted that “it is forbidden” in Islam to kill innocent people, but he justified his actions as a response to US military involvement in Muslim countries, according to the indictment.
“The US government is killing our innocent civilians,” Tsarnaev allegedly wrote. “. . . I can’t stand to see such evil go unpunished. . . . We Muslims are one body; you hurt one, you hurt us all. Stop killing our innocent people, we will stop.”
Seventeen of the charges carry the possibility of the death penalty. The others carry the possibility of life in prison, prosecutors said in a statement.
The documents released Thursday detail for the first time which of the Marathon victims were killed as the result of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s alleged actions and which by his brother, Tamerlan.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev placed his backpack bomb in front of Marathon Sports at 671 Boylston St.; it killed Krystal Campbell, a 29-year-old restaurant worker from Arlington.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev placed another backpack bomb in front of the Forum restaurant at 755 Boylston St., the indictment alleged; that bomb killed 8-year-old Martin Richard and Lu Lingzi, a 23-year-old Boston University graduate student from China. The twin blasts also injured more than 260 near the Boston Marathon finish line.
The indictment charges the Tsarnaevs with the shooting death of MIT police Officer Sean Collier days later, although it was unclear which brother pulled the trigger.
Peter Payack, who was Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s wrestling coach at Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School, said he had a hard time coming to grips with the student he knew and the “extent of the evilness of the person” outlined in the indictment.
“I’m saddened and sickened by the extent of this premeditated evil,” he said. “It is hard to reconcile this with the person I knew. Obviously, I didn’t know him as well as I thought I did.”
Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed in a shootout with police on April 19 in Watertown. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was arrested later that day after he was found hiding.
Families of those killed and injured victims either could not be reached or declined requests for comment.
Kenneth J. Croke — acting special agent in charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives — said that Thursday marked 74 days since the bombings.
“Since that time, the city of Boston has begun to heal,” he said. “Today is an important day in that healing process.”
The indictment alleges that sometime before the bombings, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, downloaded pieces of extremist Islamic propaganda from the Internet, including one that directed Muslims against giving their allegiance to governments that invade Muslim lands and another by Anwar al-Awlaki, the American citizen who became a senior operative in Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen and who was killed in a 2011 drone strike.
At a press conference at the US District Courthouse in Boston Thursday afternoon, US Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz summarized the charges against Tsarnaev, then said she has met with relatives of those slain and with those wounded during the terrorist attack.
“Their strength is extraordinary, and we will do everything that we can to pursue justice, not only on their behalf, but on behalf of all of us,’’ she said.
Ortiz said it would be up to US Attorney General Eric Holder about whether to seek the death penalty.
“There are a number of different levels of review,” she said, adding that her office will seek input from victims’ families before making a recommendation to the attorney general about the death penalty. “It is a confidential process. Once he makes a decision, we’ll announce it.”
Also attending the press conference were officials from the Middlesex and Suffolk district attorney’s offices and the leaders of the Boston police, Massachusetts State Police, and the Boston office of the FBI.
Boston Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis said he expects the judicial system “will hold this man accountable for the terrible things he has done and hope that nothing like this ever happens again.”
“This case is about our community; it’s about an assault on our people,” Davis said.
Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley, who was watching the Marathon and left a few minutes before the bombs detonated, said the part of the case surrounding that attack will be best prosecuted in federal court. Indictments in Suffolk would be redundant and “only drag out the process that would already be grueling for victims, their families, and the city,” he said.
The federal charges include use of a weapon of mass destruction resulting in death, bombing of a place of public use resulting in death, malicious destruction of property resulting in death, and conspiring to do those crimes. The charges also include use of a firearm during and in relation to a violent crime and carjacking resulting in serious injury, federal prosecutors said.
Tsarnaev learned how to make the pressure cooker bombs used in the bombings from Volume 1 of an online jihadi magazine called Inspire, the indictment alleged. He also downloaded a book called, “Jihad and the Effects on Intention Upon It,’’ which the indictment said “glorifies martyrdom in the service of violent jihad.’’
The indictment alleges that Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, purchased 48 mortars in early February from Phantom Fireworks in Seabrook, N.H., containing approximately eight pounds of explosive powder. The two brothers allegedly went to Manchester, N.H., March 20, where they rented two 9mm handguns and fired some 200 rounds at the range.
On April 5, Tamerlan Tsarnaev bought electronic components on the Internet to make explosive devices, the indictment said. They were sent to his home in Cambridge.
A day before the Marathon, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev opened a prepaid cellphone account under the name Jahar Tsarni, which he used to call his brother less than a minute before the first bomb exploded, according to the indictment.
The indictment alleges that after their photos had been released to the public by law enforcement, the Tsarnaevs — armed with five improvised explosive devices, a Ruger P95 semiautomatic pistol, ammunition, a machete, and a hunting knife — fatally shot Collier on April 18 and attempted to steal his service weapon.
After shooting Collier, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his brother carjacked a Mercedes, kidnapped the driver, and forced him to drive to a gas station, robbing him of $800, according to the indictment.
After the driver escaped, the brothers drove to Watertown, where they confronted police, using four of the five explosive devices against the officers.
The battle between police and the Tsarnaevs left Richard H. Donohue Jr., an MBTA officer, critically wounded and near death. He recovered, however, and left Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital on June 14 to return to his Woburn home.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev was tackled by three Watertown police officers, who struggled with him as they tried to handcuff him. Dzhokhar drove his car at the three officers, running over his brother, “seriously injuring and contributing to his death,” the indictment alleged.
The Middlesex district attorney’s office is filing similar charges regarding the events of April 18 and 19 in its own indictment.
The bombings raised questions about what motivated the brothers and whether US officials could have stopped them before they struck.
At the press conference, Ortiz declined to comment on their motive or whether the note Tsarnaev left in the boat constituted a confession.
Neither she nor others would comment on Tsarnaev’s condition or whether he is cooperating.
After his arrest, Tsarnaev was hospitalized at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, then transferred to a locked medical facility for male prisoners at Fort Devens, about 40 miles west of Boston. He is scheduled to be arraigned July 10 in US District Court in Boston.