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April 26, 2013

Boston bombing suspect moved to prison hospital

BOSTON — The 19-year-old ethnic Russian charged with the Boston Marathon bombing has been moved to a nearby federal prison's  medical facility from the prominent hospital where he's been treated for bullet and shapnel wounds since his capture a week ago.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was taken overnight in a heavily-guarded ambulance to Fort Devens Prison 40 miles northwest of Boston. The prison is located on a former military base and handles federal prisoners with special medical needs.

Tsarnaev, naturalized as a U.S. citizen eight months ago, was upgraded from serious to fair condition at Boston's Beth Israel Deaconness Medical Center Wednesday. Before that, he'd been  in critical condition with head, neck and arm wounds.

Tsarnaev was captured the night of April 19, hiding in a boat in a backyard in suburban Watertown. Officers fired more than 30 bullets into the boat, fearing  he was armed. But investigators later said no guns or explosives were found on him or in and around the boat.

Several hours earlier. the suspect and his brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, were involved in a gunfight with police in Watertown. Tamerlan died in the violence but Dzhokhar fled the scene in a stolen Mercedes SUV, running over his wounded older brother.

The U.S. Bureau of Prisons said the Fort Devens facility holds 1,000 prisoners, and specializes in the care of inmates with long-term medical and mental health issues.

The most notorious prisoner there is Sri Lankan-born Raj Rajaratnam, billionaire hedge fund manager convicted two years ago on 14 counts of insider trading. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison and is being treated for diabetes at the Fort Devens dialysis center.

In another bombing development, the Boston Globe identified the driver of the Mercedes SUV hijacked by the bombing suspects as a 26-year-old Chinese national. The paper said the driver, nicknamed  "Danny," did not want his full name disclosed because he did not want to become the subject of a media frenzy.

The driver told the Globe that he had pulled over to check a text message when the suspects rapped on his window. When he rolled it down,  the older of the two reached in and opened the door, flashing a silver handgun.

Over the next 90 minutes, he said, they drove around Boston's close-in western suburbs, at one point in separate cars, and talked about going to New York's Times Square. But the SUV was low on gas so they stopped at a gas station to fill up. That's when "Danny" made a mad dash to a station across the street. He feared he would be chased but wasn't and told the station attendant to call 911. He said the suspects had withdrawn $700 from his ATM account earlier and that his cell phone was in the SUV. Police used the phone's signal to locate the vehicle and the suspects.

At one point, "Danny" told the Globe he was asked by the older suspect if he had heard about the Boston Marathon bombings. He said he had, including viewing the grainy photo images of the suspected pertetrators released by the FBI six hours earlier.

"I did that," he said the older suspect replied. "And I just killed a policeman in Cambridge," a reference to Sean Collier, 27, the MIT officer ambushed in his parked cruiser on campus. FBI investigators said the Tsarnaev brothers were after his service revolver but fled the scene without it because they could not figure out the gun's triple-lock holster.

Details of this story were provided by law enforcement officials and the Boston Globe.

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