WATERTOWN (CBS) – Watertown’s police chief has spent his entire law enforcement career protecting the streets of his hometown. And now that Ed Deveau is retiring after 32 years on the force, he can’t help but recall the most dramatic and terrifying days on the job: April 18 and 19, 2013.
“You had my officers thinking there was going to be a couple young kids that stole a car to all of a sudden being in a fight for their lives,” Deveau says.
Officers in Watertown were responding to a call out of Cambridge for a suspected carjacker driving a Mercedes SUV. The driver turned out to be Tamerlan Tsarnaev; behind him was a car being driven by his brother Dzhokhar. The men had just days earlier bombed the Boston Marathon finish line, killing three people – and just hours earlier assassinated an on-duty MIT police officer.
Cornered on Laurel Street, the Tsarnaevs fired their weapons and lobbed more bombs at Watertown police.
Deveau says he has replayed that night in his head countless times and continues to feel it’s some kind of miracle that no police officers were killed.
“You do the best you can,” he told WBZ while standing at the site on Monday, the day before he was set to retire. “It’s not going to be perfect; it’s way beyond our training. Right here, what happened on Laurel Street, I would always rate this as an A+.”
Earlier this year, the official state “after action” report on the aftermath of the bombings praised much of what law enforcement did that week, but also suggested room for improvement. Deveau agrees.
For one thing, the chief says, he called for too many officers to respond to Watertown, creating a situation in which it was hard for those officers to tell who was in charge. That created sometimes chaotic scenes.
‘[MBTA police officer] Dic Donohue more likely than not was shot by crossfire up at that intersection [on Laurel Street],” Deveau says, adding, “I’ve thought about this hundreds of times now and I think you could have had the best leader at that intersection and they never would have dreamt that it could have happened the way it did.”
But the chief says his department, and others, have already learned lessons from mistakes made then.
“If Watertown happens again, we’ll do a better job,” Deveau says. “It’s never going to be perfect in a chaotic situation. But we can do better. We want to do better.”
Leaving his department after 14 years as its chief is bittersweet, he says.
“To walk away is a little bit sad, but I’m really proud of where the department is right now,” Deveau explained.
His departure comes just days after the younger Tsarnaev brother was formally sentenced to die for his crimes. That is not a coincidence.
“I didn’t even consider retirement until the trial was over,” Deveau says. “I’ve been with my officers right from April 19th. I always told them I would be with them until the finish line. So it was important for me to see the trial through to be with them, knowing they were going to testify, to bring it to a full conclusion.”
The chief made it a point to be at federal court almost every day of the bomber’s trial.
“I think it was so important for me to be there,” he says. “I felt like I was representing our police department and our community.”