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Courts / Law

Bombing Suspect Charged With Using Weapon of Mass Destruction

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Massachusetts State Police/The Associated Press

Federal authorities have charged Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev with using a weapon of mass destruction against persons and property and he now faces the death penalty, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said today.

Tsarnaev’s first court appearance was today in his hospital bed at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, where he is listed in serious condition.

“Today’s charges are the culmination of extraordinary law enforcement coordination and the tireless efforts of so many, including ordinary citizens who became heroes as they responded to the call for help in the hours and days following the Marathon tragedy,” U.S. Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz, whose Boston office will prosecute the case, said in a statement. “The impact of these crimes has been far-reaching, affecting a worldwide community that is looking for peace and justice. We hope that this prosecution will bring some small measure of comfort both to the public at large and to the victims and their families that justice will be served.”

Tsarnaev is charged with using and conspiring to use an improvised explosive device against persons and property resulting in death, and malicious destruction of property by means of an explosive device resulting in death.

The charges are punishable by life in prison or by death, Holder’s office said.

“Although our investigation is ongoing, today’s charges bring a successful end to a tragic week for the city of Boston, and for our country,” Holder said. “Our thoughts and prayers remain with each of the bombing victims and brave law enforcement professionals who lost their lives or suffered serious injuries as a result of this week’s senseless violence. Thanks to the valor of state and local police, the dedication of federal law enforcement and intelligence officials, and the vigilance of members of the public, we’ve once again shown that those who target innocent Americans and attempt to terrorize our cities will not escape from justice. We will hold those who are responsible for these heinous acts accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”

Authorities say Tsarnaev, 19, and his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, detonated two homemade bombs packed with nails and BBs at the finish line of the marathon, killing three — 8-year-old Martin Richard of Dorchester, 29-year-old Krystle Campbell of Medford and Lingzi Lu, 23, a Boston University student. Nearly 200 more were maimed in the attack.

The FBI identified them as suspects through surveillance and released their photos tot he public Thursday afternoon. Hours later, authorities say the pair ambushed MIT campus cop Sean Collier, 26, shot him to death, carjacked an SUV and engaged in a furious firefight with cops in Watertown, severely injuring Transit police officer Richard Donohue, 33.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed in the firefight. Dzhokhan Tsarnaev fled the scene, becoming the subject of an unprecedented manhunt that paralyzed greater Boston on Friday. Cops found him hiding in a boat on a residential property on Franklin Street in Watertown. He was taken to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, where he remains under heavy guard.

Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino said today after the charge was announced that he’s not a big death penalty supporter, “but with this one I’m ok with it.”