Long Island is on high alert after twin bombings Monday at the Boston Marathon left at least three dead—reportedly including an 8-year-old boy—and more than 100 wounded.
New York State, city, Nassau and Suffolk county authorities said they are taking extra precautions while federal investigators work with Boston police on the investigation, which is still in its early stages. A number of Long Islanders were among the runners and spectators swept up in the ensuing chaos.
“We will be holding a security meeting this Wednesday with subsequent security briefings in the weeks leading up to our Long Island Marathon,” Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano said of the May 3-5 races—just two weeks away. He said Nassau police “is in constant contact with the FBI and the [NYPD].”
Suffolk County Police Deputy Chief Kevin Fallon, that department’s chief spokesman, said officers are focusing on Long Island Rail Road stations, malls and sports arenas with backup from bomb-sniffing dogs.
“Patrols will include having officers exiting their vehicles and walking through the transportation facilities,” he said. “Police have no reason to believe that a similar incident will occur in Suffolk…but the department is taking precautionary measures.”
The two closely timed bombs went off about 50 yards from each other at the Boylston Street finish line shortly before 3 p.m. Police said they later found at least one undetonated explosive devise nearby and that a report of a third explosion at nearby JFK Library preliminarily appears to be an unrelated fire. The FBI has taken over the probe.
Rick DesLauriers, FBI Special Agent in Charge of the Boston field office, said authorities are treating the case as a “potential terrorist investigation.” Boston police said that despite widespread news reports to the contrary, there is no suspect in custody.
Sal Nastasi, a 33-year-old Massapequa Park man who finished the 26.2-mile race in two hours and 35 minutes, was cheering on a friend at the 24-mile mark when he got word he narrowly avoided the carnage himself.
“The course cleared out and people were trying to figure out just what was going on,” Nastasi told CBS Sports Radio. “People were pretty frantic.”
Anthony Abbruscato, a 22-year-old North Babylon man who was also cheering on friends who were running the race when the bombs went off, said he was stunned by the attacks.
“There was a moment where time seemed to stand still as all of us tried to digest what was happening,” he said. “After the gravity of the situation set in, everyone began to panic and flee from the area. Phone lines were either down or busy, and everyone just felt helpless as they tried to contact friends and loved ones at the event.”
The case is a reminder that the public and law enforcement needs to remain vigilant, according to Vincent Henry, director of the Homeland Security Management Institute at Long Island University.
“From what we’ve seen it appears to have been an anti-personnel device,” he said. “Something that was designed to harm people and not buildings.”
Jeffrey Grossmann, a St. John’s University criminal justice professor in the Homeland and Corporate Security Program, said that the fact that countless cameras were aimed at the finish line could help solve the case.
“Anyone with recordings and videotapes of surveillance videos of anything that happened should contact authorities,” he said. “It may play a key role in finding out what happened.”
Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), chairman of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Counterintelligence & Terrorism, said the attackers will be brought to justice.
“Americans will not be deterred by terrorism,” he said. “We will hunt down and bring to justice the cowards responsible for today’s attack.”
Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis echoed the sentiment.
“This cowardly act will not be taken in stride,” he told reporters in a Tuesday night news conference. “We will turn every rock over to find the person responsible.”
President Barack Obama addressed the nation in a brief televised statement.
“We still do not know who did this or why,” he said. “And people shouldn’t jump to conclusions before we have all the facts. But make no mistake—we will get to the bottom of this. And we will find out who did this; we’ll find out why they did this. Any responsible individuals, any responsible groups will feel the full weight of justice.”