As rumor and conjecture flew yesterday, the New York Post alone reported that a Saudi national was being questioned at a Boston hospital. Despite getting heaped with scorn, the Post doubled down on the story—and this morning the paper was proved to be right. Unfortunately, the mere existence of the "person of interest" is about the only solid fact we have.
At some point ("yesterday afternoon," "late Monday night," "early Tuesday morning"), some combination of the FBI, ATF, Boston police, state police, ICE, and Homeland Security executed a search warrant on a fifth-floor apartment in the Ocean Shore Tower in nearby Revere, Mass, overlooking the beach. The Post says the raid started at 5:30 p.m.; the Herald, by 7; CBS says bags were removed at 2 a.m. WBZ says the search lasted nine hours; the Herald quotes a roomate saying he was with police for five hours.
The man's roommate told reporters he doubts his friend could have been responsible. "He’s sweet and kind and a good person," the roommate said. That roommate was home when police showed up to begin their search, the Globe reports, and was asked to leave the apartment. Or perhaps he arrived home to find the search already in progress, as the Herald reports.
Even more conflicting than the reports of the search are the stories about how the man came to authorities' attention. The Post relays this, from a law-enforcement source:
The potential suspect told police he had dinner Sunday night near Boston’s Prudential Center, about half a mile from the blast site, the sources said.
He also said that he went to the Copley Square area yesterday to witness the finish of the race.
The sources said that, after the man was grabbed by police, he smelled of gunpowder and declared, “I thought there would be a second bomb.”
He also asked: “Did anyone die?”
It's far from clear how he was first noticed after the bombings. CBS News reports that "he was seen running from the explosion, and a civilian chased him down and tackled him," which is a lesson to all brown-skinned people out there: don't run away from explosions; you'll look suspicious.
But the CBS report goes and contradicts itself in the very next paragraph:
"He was at the scene along with many other people when the blast happened," Miller said Tuesday on "CBS This Morning." "As everybody is standing in shock, three Boston PD detectives see this guy moving quickly out of the crowd. As they're watching him, he seems to be moving very deliberately away, which could be a very natural thing after a bombing. They stop him because he's covered with blood ... they think he may be injured ... they engage him, they start asking questions ... there are things about his responses that made them uncomfortable, so they arranged to get him to the hospital."
Meanwhile the New York Times has a source who flat-out says the student was not involved in the attacks.
Now's probably a good time to invoke the memory of Richard Jewell, a hero of the 1996 Olympic bombings, who was all but tried and convicted by the press in the aftermath of the blasts. He wound up collecting millions in defamation suits settled by the Post, CNN, NBC and others.