What We Know So Far About the Marathon Bombing Suspects
Updated 1:00 p.m. As the world learned the names of the two brothers suspected of bombing the Boston Marathon, almost all those that knew the seemingly well-adjusted immigrants from Russia expressed surprise in interviews that they’d be responsible for the violence.
Police identified the suspect wearing a white hat in FBI photos as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, of Cambridge, saying he is at large, armed, and dangerous, after a violent confrontation with police in Cambridge and Watertown Thursday night.
— Boston Police Dept. (@Boston_Police) April 19, 2013
The other of the two suspects identified by the FBI on Thursday—reportedly Tamorlan Tsarnaev, 26, also of Cambridge—was killed in that confrontation with police early Friday morning.
Those who knew the brothers in their time in the U.S. are beginning to come forward to provide a portrait of them. Russell Lamour of Maine traveled with Tamorlan Tsarnaev for one week in 2009 for the National Golden Gloves Competition in Salt Lake City, Utah. They were part of the 2009 New England Golden Gloves Team. Lamour told Boston, “We were together for the entire week, and I saw him everyday. He was a little … he was cool, but he didn’t really hang out with us much, he kept to himself.”
Lamour says that Tamorlan Tsarnaev “wasn’t cool with everything we did,” activities like going out at night or to dinner. When Tsarnaev did go out with them, on rare occasions, and tried to talk to girls, if they turned him down, “he would get aggressive and call me names, and say things like [expletive] you bitch.” Even so, he said he can’t believe that Tsarnaev is tied with the Boston bombing, and he was “at a loss for words.”
Tsarnaev appears in this photo essay about boxing that quickly circulated the internet, and he’s quoted saying, “I don’t have a single American friend, I don’t understand them.” His YouTube account documents videos he liked, including Russian rap, a testimonial titled “How I accepted Islam and became a Shiite,” and a clip “Seven Steps to Successful Prayer.” And he reportedly studied at Bunker Hill Community College to be an engineer.
The Associated Press reports that the brothers are originally from the Russian region of Dagestan near Chechnya. The Associated Press spoke with the brothers’ father, Anzor Tsarnaev, who said of his son Dzhokhar, “My son is a true angel.” And, “Dzhokhar is a second-year medical student in the U.S. He is such an intelligent boy. We expected him to come on holidays here.”
The AP also spoke with the brothers’ uncle, Ruslan Tsarni of Montgomery Village, Md., who said the two lived together and have been in the United State for about a decade. Before coming here, Dzhokhar went to school in Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan, which the AP characterizes as “a predominantly Muslim republic in Russia’s North Caucasus that has become an epicenter of the Islamic insurgency that spilled over from Chechnya.” Chechan separatists have had a violent relationship with Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union, with brutal crackdowns from the Russian government in the region, and an underground insurgency that resorts to terrorist activities throughout Russia. (This Foreign Policy guide is helpful.)
After moving to the U.S., Dzhokhar, known to classmates as Jahar, graduated from the Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, according to his page on the Russian social networking site Vkontakte, and won a $2,500 scholarship from the city of Cambridge in 2011 to pursue higher education. UMass Dartmouth confirmed today that he is enrolled there. Several other Googlers discovered that he was once a wrestler, named student athlete of the month at CRLS. Tsarnaev’s social networking page describes his world view as “Islam” and his personal goals as “career and money.” People who knew him in high school are describing him to Buzzfeed as “a sweet sort of quiet guy” who didn’t talk a lot but didn’t isolate himself.
Amid several fake social media accounts purporting to be Dzhokhar, several media outlets believe they’ve found his actual Twitter account, which provides a strange look inside his mind in the past several week. The account has a profile picture that matches others of him, and he’s tweeted with other accounts that would indicate its actually his, writes Gawker’s Adrian Chen. He addressed the Boston Marathon bombing with this tweet:
Ain’t no love in the heart of the city, stay safe people
— Jahar (@J_tsar) April 16, 2013
That’s a Jay-Z lyric, for the record. Before and after the attack, he seemed to comment on everyday matters.
Got me a haircut, I don’t usually do those
— Jahar (@J_tsar) April 13, 2013
And several days afterward:
I’m a stress free kind of guy
— Jahar (@J_tsar) April 17, 2013
In fact, many of those people are having trouble connection the boy they knew with a suspected murderer on the run from police. WBUR host Robin Young tweeted that she, “Just confirmed, I know dzhokhar tsarnave [sic], one of best freinds of my beloved nephew, who says he never in his life saw this.” A Boston Globe co-op and friend from high school tells the paper that he was so unsuspecting that he even tried to reach out to Jahar to warn him that people might think he resembled the FBI photos of suspects being circulated. “I think that right there can tell you how far from my mind even relating these two was.”
A Somerville mechanic who has been working on the suspects’ cars for more than a year tells Boston that Dzhokhar came into the shop Tuesday, one day after the bombings, to pick up his vehicle—not the Honda that police said they were searching for at one point Friday morning, but another one— and appeared visibly nervous.
“He was biting his nails the whole time. At first I didn’t even think about it, but looking back now—oh my gosh,” Gilberto Junior says. Junior owns an auto shop in Somerville, but asked that his business not be named. According to the mechanic, the Tsarnaev brothers seemed like “regular kids” in the past, but when Dzhokhar came in, he couldn’t sit still and demanded Junior give him his vehicle.
“He was going back and forth, and shaking his legs,” he says. “He told me when he dropped off the car it was his girlfriend’s. But later said it was his friends.” Junior says the car had no taillights, and was missing part of the bumper, and he hadn’t complete work on the vehicle when Tsanraev showed up and asked to take it. “He said ‘I don’t care, I need to pick it up right now.'” Junior said “nobody knows” what he would have done if he had known the customer was connected to the bombing. “People, when evil, they can act like angels … He was a coward,” he says.