BOSTON WRONGED: Hollywood Twists Boston

Revere, Mass., Chief of Police Joseph Cafarelli after the capture of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
Revere, Mass., Chief of Police Joseph Cafarelli after the capture of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Revere, Mass., Chief of Police Joseph Cafarelli after the capture of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

The story of the Boston Marathon Bombing is rife with contradictions, canards, misconceptions and blatant untruths. Boston Wronged is part of WhoWhatWhy’s attempt to set the record straight. This is an occasional series of articles debunking the faulty stories and “facts” which persist, despite evidence to the contrary.

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Want to see the made-for-TV movie about the capture of Boston Marathon Bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev? No problem. Want that movie to be factually correct? Good luck.

A TV company founded by a retired Boston police officer is producing the story of the SWAT team credited with “slapping the cuffs” on Tsarnaev. Wren Productions is working with the SWAT team commander, Revere, Mass., police chief Joseph Cafarelli, to produce the “only official true life story” of the Tsarnaev takedown.

That’s the second collaboration between former Boston officer Rick Rizzo, who founded Wren Productions, and Cafarelli. Their first project? “Taking Down Tsarnaev”, an article published in Police Magazine on April 3, 2014.

But there’s just one problem.

The piece contained several inaccuracies. One stands out in particular: the erroneous claim that Cafarelli and his North Metro SWAT team arrived at the boat moments after Tsarnaev began shooting at police on scene on April 20, 2013:

“Minutes later police were on the scene, and they were engaging Tsarnaev in a gunfight. More than 40 shots were fired,” the article says.

Wait a second: engaged in a firefight with Tsarnaev? He was unarmed when he was found hiding in a dry-docked boat in a Watertown backyard, severely wounded. That’s roughly 16 hours after he fled a shootout in which police shot and killed his elder brother, Tamerlan. 26.

Early reports suggesting Tsarnaev may have fired shots from the boat were refuted within days of his capture, but “Taking Down Tsarnaev” perpetuated the myth more than a year later.

The article also said the Tsarnaev brothers shot Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority Officer Richard Donahue, who was in fact wounded by friendly fire during the Watertown shootout.

Wren Productions says Rick Rizzo’s law enforcement background ensures his programs contain “added punch, true reality and honesty.” Perhaps it will have the same kind of accuracy as the made-for-TV re-enactment of the bombing that prospective jurors in Tsarnaev’s trial have confused with being the real thing.

But given the veracity of Rizzo’s first story about the shootout, will the video sequel be more Hollywood fantasy than fact?

Where else do you see journalism of this quality and value?

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