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Man With ‘Hoax Device’ Frays Nerves At Boston Marathon Site

Shortly after ceremonies ended Tuesday to commemorate the one year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing, two backpacks in the area of the Boylston Street finish line raised concerns of police, who evacuated the neighborhood.

Boston-Marathon Anniversary

The Boston Police Department called in the bomb squad and performed what is known as a “controlled disruption” of the bags, police department spokesman David Estrada said.

Police arrested a man who is the owner of the bags, Estrada said, although later police reports indicated the man owned only one of the backpacks. Police charged the man with possession of a hoax device, disturbing the peace and disorderly conduct.

One of the backpacks held a rice cooker inside, police said.

An officer noticed the man behaving suspiciously and stopped the man, who then dropped his backpack, Police Superintendent Randall Halstead said.

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Halstead would not say who might have owned the second backpack or what was inside.

Estrada was not sure what method was used to “disrupt” the bags. “They have different methods – sometimes water cannon, sometimes a little bit of explosives.”

The neighborhood was still cordoned off at about 10 p.m. Tuesday, according to Estrada. The incident happened at about 6:50 p.m.

Earlier, crowds gathered to remember the four who died in connection with the April 15, 2013, bombing at the finish line and the hundreds who were injured. Many of those who lost limbs in the incident took part. Some of the crowds who had come downtown to see the ceremony and honor victims had left the downtown area when the backpack incident took place, Estrada said.

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The backpack incident at around the time spectators were celebrating brothers Paul and J.P. Norden, both of whom lost legs after the 2013 bombing and both of whom on Tuesday walked the entire 26.2-mile marathon course. Runners Christy Zuroweste and Shaun Steele of Joplin, Mo., said they had just the brothers cross the finish line when they overheard a voice on a police officer’s radio say something about a backpack. Both were in town for Sunday’s finale to the One Run for Boston charity relay and Steele will run the Boston Marathon next week.

“They sounded frantic,” said Zuroweste, 37, of the voice on the police radio. “It was like a distressed kind of thing.”

Suddenly, the police started telling people to get out of the area.

“They were just like, ‘Get off the street. Get out, go. You’ve got to go right now,’ ” said Steele, 42.

Running coach Laura Ingalls was at Heartbreak Hill at about mile 21 of the marathon last year when the bombs went off. She was guiding runners to the end of the 26.2-mile race when they were pulled off the course. She was able to charge her phone at a stranger’s house and hear from their television what was going on. When she told her runners what was happening, some went into hysterics, she said.

Authorities eventually guided the group to a local church, where they were able to get snacks and water and, for those who needed it after running 21 miles, medical attention, Ingalls said.

On Tuesday, Ingalls was waiting inside a restaurant right near the finish line for Zuroweste, Steele and other friends when she heard what happened. Authorities would let no one leave for almost three hours, she said. Tuesday’s incident brought back for her all that happened last year and made her angry, she said.

“Those survivors have become our symbol of hope and to think of what they must have gone through emotionally” when the incident happened, said Ingalls, 34, of Newton, Mass. “I’m really trying to calm down. It was infuriating.”

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