Suddenly, in the middle of a manhunt

The moments right after the shootout were a scary time for police and citizens alike

Tessa Collins, Raider Times staff

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“Don’t you dare move,” the police officer said. 

JD Donohue and a friend of his were pulled over on a road off of Mount Auburn Street on April 19, 2013. With a gun pointed at his head, Mr. Donohue obeyed the officer. It was the first of two times he was pulled over that night.

“My buddy and I threw our hands up in the air, and I left the interior lights on like he told me,’’ he said. “I yelled out who I was and kept my hands in the air, and didn’t move. The police came directly to our car, with the gun still fully drawn.

“These are the two bombers from the Marathon and we have them surrounded. You guys gotta get outta here,” the policeman said to Mr. Donohue. “You gotta get off the road.”

Mr. Donohue is a lifelong Watertown resident who was then serving a third term as town councilor, and his restaurant, Donohue’s Bar & Grill, is on Bigelow Avenue a few blocks from the shootout.

A few minutes before, Mr. Donohue was in his restaurant with a few people as usual. His doorman came inside, and told him there was a “weird smell” outside.

Mr. Donohue said, “When I went outside, we could hear gunfire … The police started to fly by. Me and a buddy of mine decided to go around the corner, to figure out what was going on. You could smell the sulfur in the air, and you know, there was some serious stuff going on.”

Police were everywhere. The town had never seen that many police cars filling the streets. They were looking for the Tsarnaev brothers, the alleged Marathon bombers.

While Mr. Donohue and his friend were driving, an unmarked and undercover police car raced up behind them.

“The car came flying out of the road and the policeman got out before it even stopped; the car was still rolling,’’ he said. “The guy jumped out of the car with his gun drawn and pointed it right at me.”

Many other police cars pulled up behind the first one, serving as backup. The officer — who wasn’t from Watertown — and Mr. Donohue recognized each other. The officer urged him, “JD, you need to get out of here.”  

The guy jumped out of the car with his gun drawn and pointed it right at me.”

— JD DONOHUE

They started driving back on Mount Auburn Street.

“The police just kept on coming,’’ he said. “We got stopped again, this time by the State Police. The state police officer questioned us. We identified ourselves and we let him know that we were just driving home.”

The State Policeman warned them to get off the road, but he didn’t pull out his gun.

“At this point, my buddy and I thought it was definitely time to get out of the car,” he said.

They both arrived home safely. Mr. Donohue’s staff and a few customers were locked down in his restaurant, but they were safe inside and at no extra risk. The next day, when the police found the alleged bomber and gave the all clear, Mr. Donohue reopened the restaurant. Residents and policemen filed in for food, drinks, and relief.

“It was a very enjoyable celebration…news anchors, reporters, and newspapers came in for interviews … people from all around the world were there,” Mr. Donohue said.

When asked if he was frightened, he said definitely.

“At first, I didn’t know what was going on,’’ he said. “Then, the policeman that pulled the gun on me knew who I was, and I was lucky. It was an extremely high-stress situation and I was scared completely, to be honest. At no point could I say I wasn’t scared. If I wasn’t scared, that would be a serious problem for me.”

Mr. Donohue was extremely happy with the way the police department acted, and said that they were very mindful of everything that was going on.

“It was a dangerous, dangerous situation and I think being stuck in the middle of it for a minute or two was pretty crazy,’’ he said. “All the people in and around Watertown did a great job. Everyone who came to Watertown to assist us — kudos to them. I’m glad there were no additional lives lost.”

As someone who has a large role in the town, he has a positive outlook on where we’re headed.

“Today in society people just walk out their front door, get in their car, and go to work. Sometimes you gotta turn left and right, say hello to your neighbors. I hope that, in a positive way, maybe some people who may not have known each other well will check in on each other,’’ he said.

“We saw on the news how people were sharing milk and bread with other families. I think as tragic as it was, maybe it was a positive outcome. We saw how this community came together.”

One of the events he hopes will achieve such bonding is the Watertown Police Finish Strong 5K Road Run/Walk on April 19 in Watertown.

“That’s gonna be something that really, hopefully, brings something positive out of [the events last spring] and brings the community together,” he said.

–April 8, 2014–

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Suddenly, in the middle of a manhunt