Saturday April 20, 2013

Brendan Flynn woke from a sound sleep at about 4 a.m. Friday morning in Watertown: A co-worker called to warn him that major police activity was going down in his neighborhood.

The Great Barrington native, who has lived in Watertown for about a year with his girlfriend, Martha Luitje, turned on the television and realized that 200 yards away, just around the corner from his basement apartment on Dartmouth Street, a massive police operation was underway.

One MIT security officer had been killed on campus, while one of the suspects in the Monday's Boston Marathon bombing had apparently been killed. The other suspect was on the loose and probably not far away.

As the television commentators were explaining just what had happened and what was happening, Flynn said he and Luitje realized their apartment was part of the area being cordoned off.

"We were right in the middle of it," he said.

Minutes later, members of a SWAT team, in body armor and wielding AR-15 rifles, knocked on the door.

Flynn, a survey technician for a Boston engineering firm, said he and Luitje were as helpful as they could be -- opening doors and cupboards and cooperating as much as possible -- as police went through their house looking for 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who had escaped the police shootout. Dzhokhar's 26-year-old brother Tamerlan was killed.

"After seeing what had been going on in our neighborhood, we wanted to comply," he said. "They were cool. They weren't friendly, but they were polite. We knew we weren't in trouble, so we wanted to help out."

Flynn said the officers spent about 20 minutes in the apartment, and afterward, there were four or five other officers posted in the back yard the couple shares with a neighbor.

"I walked out onto my porch [later that night] and I could see them out in our yard," he said.

Flynn said they appeared to be watching and waiting for something, although they eventually left.

In addition to a horde of officers, helicopters were flying above most of the night.

Flynn said that he has never seen either of the individuals authorities believe set off the bombs on Monday, killing three and injured more than 180.

"No, I've never seen either of them around this part of Watertown," he said.

Watertown's lockdown was lifted around 6 p.m. Friday. Flynn said the couple spent the day in their apartment, mostly answering emails, texts and calls to assure friends and family they were OK.

At one point, he noticed Secret Service agents looking into the windows of his car, parked outside the apartment.

"I was getting a little antsy at one point," Flynn said Friday afternoon from his home. "But there are still police and FBI and SWAT guys up and down the street. Not as crazy as it was in the morning, but they were still there."

Flynn said he wanted the couple's friends to know that they were safe.