Danny, the Tsarnaevs' carjacking victim, had studied this picture of the Marathon bomber suspects intently before Tamerlan knocked on his car window.
The most harrowing story of the entire Boston Marathon saga had gone untold, until now. The carjacking that Jahar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev pulled as part of their improvised escape from Boston had been largely glossed over in reports, largely because it was sandwiched by dramatic events with more witnesses. Now, the carjacking victim, “Danny,” a 26 year-old Chinese entrepreneur, has come forward with his story, which he detailed in an interview with the Boston Globe. It involves theft, a brush with death, and casually lying to stay alive.
"Don't be stupid"
In an act of responsibility a lot of people ought to emulate, Danny pulled his new Mercedes to the curb to answer a text. He couldn’t have known he was about to begin the scariest ninety minutes of his life. A ragged car slammed on the brakes behind him, and a man got out and knocked on Danny’s window, speaking quickly. Danny lowered the window to hear what he was saying, and the man reached in, unlocked the door and opened it, holding a silver handgun in his other hand.
“Don’t be stupid,” the intruder warned. He asked Danny if he had heard about the Boston Marathon bombings, and Danny said that he had.
“I did that,” said the intruder, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, “and I just killed a policeman in Cambridge.”
Tamerlan got in and ordered Danny to drive, while Dzhokhar tailed them in his sedan. For the next stretch, as Tamerlan directed his driving, whether Danny lived or died depended on his words, and even the movements of his eyes.
“Don’t look at me!” Tamerlan shouted at him. “Do you remember my face?”
Danny answered that correctly: “No, no I don’t remember anything.”
“It’s like white guys, they look at black guys and think they all look the same,” laughed Tamerlan. “And maybe you think all white guys look the same.”
“Exactly,” Danny replied, lying to increase his chances of survival. From there, Danny, who came to the U.S. in 2009, emphasized how much of an outsider he was. Danny said that he had barely been in the U.S. for one year.
“Oh, that’s why your English is not very good,” Tamerlan replied. “OK, you’re Chinese ... I’m a Muslim.”
“Chinese are very friendly to Muslims!” Danny announced.
Eventually they pulled onto a side street so Dzhokhar could join them in the Mercedes, after transferring some luggage into Danny’s trunk. Tamerlan ordered Danny into the passenger seat while Dzhokhar took the wheel.
At one point, Danny asked for his jacket in the back seat, because he was cold. Tamerlan obliged, and Danny briefly unbuckled his seat belt to put it on. He tried to buckle the seat belt behind him to make a potential escape easier, but Tamerlan caught him.
“Don’t do that,” Tamerlan said. “Don’t be stupid.”
The Tsarnaev brothers bantered, chatting in a way more befitting two adolescents than two terrorists. They talked about girls, credit limits, the iPhone 5, whether anyone still listens to CDs. Meanwhile, Danny mentally rehearsed his escape. He needed to be ready if he ever got the chance.
"If I didn't make it, he would kill me right out."
His moment came when Dzhokhar had to go into a gas station store to pay for gas, which was in “cash only” mode because it was late. That meant that Danny was alone in a stopped car, with only one of the Tsarnaev brothers. He debated if he should make a run for it, but as soon as he started, he knew this was no time for deliberation, just go or don’t go. He went.
“I was thinking I must do two things: unfasten my seatbelt and open the door and jump out as quick as I can. If I didn’t make it, he would kill me right out, he would kill me right away,” Danny told the Boston Globe. “I just did it. I did it very fast, using my left hand and right hand simultaneously to open the door, unfasten my seatbelt, jump out...and go.”
Danny didn’t even know if the door was open. If it wasn’t he might have died, but it was. Tamerlan reached out to grab him, but Danny got away first. Danny sprinted at a diagonal across the highway, into a Mobil gas station where he hid, and yelled for the clerk to call 911.
Danny’s bravery didn’t’ just save his own life, he may have saved many innocent New Yorkers. Jahar and Tamerlan had talked about going to Manhattan next to set off another pressure cooker bomb in Times Square. Danny told the police that they could track his stolen Mercedes through Danny’s iPhone, which was still in the car. The brothers neglected to turn it off. Danny also had a two-way Mercedes satellite system known as mbrace.
The Mobil clerk gave him bottled water, and state and local police arrived, took Danny in for questioning and gave him coffee and a bagel. Danny could be nationally famous now if he chose to be, but he would rather be interviewed under his nickname, and get back to the normal life he is more thankful than ever to have.