Chinese Benz SUV Driver Key to Catching Boston Bombers

If a Chinese man hadn’t made his getaway after his SUV was commandeered by the Boston bombers, it would likely have taken more time and more lives to end their terror campaign.

The Mercedes-Benz SUV commandeered by the Tsarnaev brother four days after they had set off the bombs at the Boston Marathon belonged to a 26-year-old Chinese man willing to be identified only “as Danny” in an interview with the Boston Globe.

On the evening of April 18 Danny was sitting parked in his new Mercedes SUV sending a text when a man in dark clothes knocked on the window. He later learned that the man was Tamerlan, the older brother who happened to be the same age as Danny.

Giving Danny a glimpse of his silver handgun Tamerlan got into the car and ordered Danny to drive, adding “Don’t be stupid.”

Tamerlan asked Danny if he had been watching the news about the Boston Marathon bombings.

“I did that,” Tamerland said, and added that he had just killed a policeman in Cambridge.

The younger brother Dzhokhar, 19, tailed the SUV in another car. Later he moved various things from the car to the SUV, then got in. At that point Tamerlan moved to the driver’s seat and took the wheels.

There appears to have been some effort by the Tsarnaev brothers to ease the tension by engaging in casual conversation with Danny during the 90 minutes he was their captive. Topics included girls, credit limits for students, Danny’s Mercedes-Benz ML 350, the iPhone 5, and whether anyone still listens to CDs.

The Tsarnaevs also openly discussed driving to New York. Authorities believe that had they been able to carry out that plan, they would likely have carried out another bombing attack, possibly in Times Square, the city’s most crowded and high-visibility area.

Danny, meanwhile, said he was in constant fear for his life.

“Death is so close to me. I don’t want to die,” he remembered thinking. “I have a lot of dreams that haven’t come true yet.”

He played up his own foreign status by telling them, “Chinese are very friendly to Muslims! We are so friendly to Muslims.”

Danny received a text from his roommate asking where he was. Tamerlan took the phone and asked Danny how to use an English-to-Chinese app. “I am sick. I am sleeping in a friend’s place tonight,” was the reply Tamerlan typed back in Chinese.

When the phone rang Tamerlan told him, “If you say a single word in Chinese, I will kill you right now.”

“I’m sleeping in my friend’s home tonight,” Danny told his roommate. “I have to go.”

The SUV was running low on gas. Tamerlan pulled into a Shell station. Dzhokhar went inside to pay. Danny sensed what he thought might be his best and only chance to escape.

“I was thinking I must do two things: unfasten my seat belt and open the door and jump out as quick as I can,” Danny recalled. “If I didn’t make it, he would kill me right out, he would kill me right away. I just did it. I did it very fast, using my left hand and right hand simultaneously to open the door, unfasten my seat belt, jump out … and go.”

Danny sprinted across the street to a Mobil station and shouted at the clerk to call 911.

“I didn’t know if it was open or not. In that moment, I prayed.”

The brothers sped away in Danny’s SUV. Moments after Danny talked to the 911 dispatcher police arrived on the scene. Not long after there was a shootout between police and the Tsarnaevs. The next day there was another shootout in which Tamerlan was killed but Dzhokhar managed to escape. Later that day Dzokhar was found hiding in a boat in a Watertown backyard and arrested following another shootout in which he was suffered severe injuries. He was immediately hospitalized where he remains in serious condition.

Danny gave his account to the Boston Globe on condition that neither his surname or his Chinese name be revealed in an effort to avoid publicity.

“I don’t want to be a famous person talking on TV,” he said. “I don’t feel like a hero. … I was trying to save myself.”

Danny did reveal that he was from a “province in central China” and had studied engineering at Northeastern University before starting up a tech firm in Boston’s Kendall Square.