USA TODAY - Three days after the Boston bombings, the Tsarnaev brothers "spontaneously" decided to drive to New York's Times Square in a hijacked SUV to explode their remaining bombs. But they were thwarted when the SUV owner escaped, triggering a police car chase and shootout, New York's mayor and police commissioner said Thursday.
"We don't know whether we would have been able to stop the terrorists had they arrived here from Boston, but we are just thankful that we didn't have to find out the answer," Mayor Michael Bloomberg told reporters.
He said the information was based on information that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 19-year-old suspect charged with the Boston bombings, told federal and police investigators from his hospital room in Boston.
The alleged plan went awry when the suspects realized the hijacked Mercedes SUV was low on gas.While the vehicle was stopped at a service station, the owner slipped out of the SUV and called police, according to Bloomberg and police commissioner Raymond Kelley.
The incident occurred Thursday night, only hours after the FBI had released photos of the two suspects, Dzhokhar and his 26-year-old brother Tamerlan. The older brother died from injuries suffered in an ensuing shootout early Friday morning.
Dzhokhar, badly injured, fled the shootout in a second car and eventually hid in a boat in the back yard of a home in Watertown, where he was captured Friday night.
In his initial interviews with investigators, Dzhokhar said only that the pair intended to go to Manhattan "to party." The next day, according to Kelley, Dzhokhar changed his story and told them about the New York City plan.
"In the car, they made a decision to go to New York, with the remaining explosive devices that they had and to detonate one or more in Times Square," Kelley said.
The police commissioner said the brothers still had in their possession a pressure cooker device packed with explosions, like one used at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15, and six pipe bombs. Three people were killed and 264 wounded in the Boston attack.
Kelley also noted that the Tsarnaev brothers had their pictures taken in Times Square in 2012 and earlier this year, but said he did not know if their presence was directly timed to any specific actions.
NBC News, which originally broke the story about the New York City plan, quoted a senior law enforcement official as saying it appeared to be more "aspirational" in nature than concrete.