About 100 racers will participate in a 5K run Saturday to benefit Boston Marathon bombing victims.
But Friday was about honoring Watertown, Mass., police officers Miguel Colon and Richard Munger.
The pair arrived at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta on Friday morning and were shuttled around Troup County, to the Troup County Sheriff’s Office and LaGrange, Hogansville and West Point police.
“It means a lot to us (to be invited to LaGrange),” Munger said. “We’ve been invited to events around Massachusetts, but this is our first time outside the state.”
LaGrange police officers Garrett Pressley and Ley Wynn, two of the organizers of the 5K, invited the Watertown officers to LaGrange for the event. Both were involved in the capture of the Tsarnaev brothers, who they simply referred to as “subject No. 1” and “subject No. 2.” The brothers are the suspects in the bombing.
“I don’t think things will ever be entirely back to normal in Boston,” said Munger. “But this is what it’s all about, using this as a teaching tool for other agencies. If we can do anything to help the victims of the bombings, that’s why we’re here.”
Proceeds from the 5K will go to OneFundBoston.org, an organization set up to help victims and their families.
Watertown, a Boston suburb, has about 34,000 residents and a total of 45 patrol officers.
“If it can happen in Watertown, it can happen anywhere,” Colon said.
Colon and Munger presented a slide show of the capture of the brothers to Troup County sheriff’s deputies.
“We don’t know why they were in Watertown,” Colon said. “We strongly believe he knew someone in the area.”
But once the carjacking that led to the eventual killing of Tamerlan Tsarnaev happened, 6,000 officers from local, state and federal agencies descended on their little town.
Colon was involved in the firefight with the brothers that led to Tamerlan Tsarnaev being run over by his brother, Dzhokhar, as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev fled.
Colon said there were about 200 small-caliber rounds exchanged during the event, and the brothers threw five explosive devices at the officers, including a pressure cooker that didn’t explode.
The Watertown officers believe Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was trying to run over the officers in the street that were tending to Tamerlan Tsarnaev and not actually run over his brother.
Munger was working the next day when Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was found in a boat behind a Watertown house. All day, he and officers from all responding agencies had been searching house to house. No one resisted the searches, although many were surprised to have their houses overtaken by so many officers.
When 911 got the call from the boat’s owner, the “shelter in place” rule just had been lifted. It was one of about 600 calls the department had received from residents believing the suspect was nearby.
Munger said the boat’s owner recognized the suspect when he saw him in the boat and officers eventually moved in, believing Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was trying to blow up the boat.
Both officers say they were touched by the residents’ filling the streets after the suspect was taken away.
“I’ve never seen anything like that in my life,” Colon said.
Colon said the street Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was caught on is a “mean road” and officers normally don’t receive praise for their work.
“(Residents) were out there for hours,” Munger said.
The Watertown officers received gifts and proclamations from all the local law enforcement agencies they visited Friday. In addition to attending the 5K, the pair were set to go to a Braves game in Atlanta on Saturday afternoon and make an appearance at the Chattahoochee River Clean Water Festival late Saturday morning.
They will return to Watertown on Sunday.