By Phil Mattingly and Mike Dorning
BOSTON – Investigators are focusing on a person seen dropping a black bag near the site of the Boston Marathon bombing as they assemble an expanding array of forensic evidence on the explosive devices used in the attack.
Video collected by the FBI shows the person dropping the bag near the scene of one of the two explosions in the terrorist attack, according to federal law enforcement officials. Scraps of nylon recovered from the blast site indicate at least one bomb was concealed in a black bag.
Investigators also are trying to identify a small group of people for questioning based on their actions in some of the video images, said one of the officials, who asked for anonymity to discuss the case. The individuals have not been officially classified as suspects, said the officials, who declined to give descriptions of them.
The video images and the collection of mangled bomb parts in the two days after the bombing signal significant steps in solving the highest-profile act of terror in the U.S. since the Sept. 11 attacks on New York City and Washington in 2001.
“They are making progress,” Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick said in a telephone interview. “Nobody in custody.”
As the investigation continues, President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama are planning to come to Boston today to take part in an interfaith service at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross for the bombing victims. The president is scheduled to speak at 11 a.m. Boston time.
The country is still on edge after the two explosions near the finish line of the Boston Marathon killed three people and injured more than 170 others, turning one of Boston’s rites of spring into a tragedy.
Boston’s federal courthouse was evacuated yesterday and swept by dogs after a bomb threat. Police searched an abandoned U-Haul truck near city hall in Oklahoma City and officials in Atlanta investigated a report of a suspicious package north of downtown.
Washington went into terrorism-alert mode as authorities reported that preliminary tests showed letters sent to Obama and Senator Roger Wicker, a Mississippi Republican, contained the poison ricin. Suspicious packages triggered a temporary lockdown in two Senate office buildings.
A suspect, identified as Paul Kevin Curtis, was arrested yesterday in Corinth, Mississippi, in connection with the ricin- laced letters. The Federal Bureau of Investigation said in a statement that there was “no indication” of a link to the Boston bombing.
News yesterday that authorities had images of a possible bomber highlighted a chaotic day of contradictory information about the case, with reports that a suspect was arrested later dashed by official denials. The FBI scheduled a briefing, then postponed it and finally canceled.
There were conflicting reports among federal and state officials on the status of the case. One person familiar with the matter said officials at the federal court were told to prepare for a suspect to be brought in for an appearance. The person asked not to be identified because it hadn’t been announced.
The Associated Press, citing unnamed officials, initially reported that a suspect had been taken into custody. CNN retracted its report that someone was under arrest, saying there had been a misunderstanding among officials.
The crucial images of a possible suspect came from a store security camera near the April 15 bombing site, according to one federal law enforcement official who was briefed on the matter and asked to not be identified in discussing the matter.