The Slatest

The Most Interesting Twist in the Boston Manhunt (If You Don’t Count Anything That Happened Last Night)

Carlos Arredondo, who was at the finish line of the 117th Boston Marathon when two explosives detonated, leaves the scene on April 15, 2013 in Boston

Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images

Up until all hell broke loose late last night in the greater Boston area, Bloomberg had staked a claim to finding one of the most interesting twists in the larger story around the marathon bombing: 27-year-old Jeff Bauman, upon waking up from surgery after losing both of his legs to the blast, provided a description of one of the two men believed to be behind the bombings. It was that description, his brother says, that helped federal investigators crack the case wide open:

Just before 3 p.m. on April 15, Bauman was waiting among the crowd for his girlfriend to cross the finish line at the Boston Marathon. A man wearing a cap, sunglasses and a black jacket over a hooded sweatshirt looked at Jeff, 27, and dropped a bag at his feet, his brother, Chris Bauman, said in an interview.

Two and a half minutes later, the bag exploded, tearing Jeff’s legs apart. … He lost both legs below the knee. “He woke up under so much drugs, asked for a paper and pen and wrote, ‘bag, saw the guy, looked right at me’,” Chris Bauman said yesterday in an interview. …

While still in intensive care, Jeff Bauman gave the FBI a description of the man he saw, his brother said. Bauman’s information helped investigators narrow down whom to look for in hours of video of the attack, he said.

Like the rest of the Internet, I want that story to be true. But it’s worth noting that a close reading makes it clear that this is Chris Bauman’s version of events, not his brother’s and certainly not the FBI’s, which declined to comment on the story. Jeff Bauman’s description could have been what broke open the case. It also may not have. We can’t know for sure without hearing from the FBI, and they’re a little busy at the moment. Still, given Jeff Bauman’s location at the time of the blast, and what we now know about the suspects, his brother’s version certainly appears possible and maybe even likely.

Assuming it is accurate, it makes for a truly amazing story, all the more so because it involves a chain of events that can be tracked through newspaper clippings back nearly a decade to 2004, when we first met Carlos Arredondo, the man who rushed to Bauman’s aid Monday. Arredondo, for those who aren’t familiar with his painful past, lost one of his sons in the Iraq War. When the Marines came to tell him, he was so overcome with grief he set himself on fire inside their van, in the process becoming “one of the iconic images of the Iraq war,” in the words of the Washington Post. On Monday, he was cast in a different iconic image:

(Quick note: There’s a little confusion given Bloomberg’s use of “yesterday” and the fact the story was originally published late Thursday. But I spoke with one of the reporters who wrote the story, Esmé E. Deprez, and she explained to me late last night that the interview indeed happened Thursday after the FBI presser.)

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