Friends Allegedly Tossed Out Items Linking Bombing Suspect to Explosions

Three friends of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev were arrested and are being charged for lying to investigators.

Opened and emptied fireworks found in Tsarnaev’s dorm. Photo via FBI.

Opened and emptied fireworks found in Tsarnaev’s dorm. Photo via FBI.

Investigators say two days before FBI officials searched the dorm room of Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev at the University of Massachusetts in Dartmouth, his friends allegedly collected items from his residence connecting him to the attack, and threw them in a dumpster.

In complaints filed in U.S. District Court, officials said Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov, “intentionally obstructed justice” during the bombing investigation by “destroying, concealing, and covering up tangible objects,” to impede the research being conducted by the FBI. Officials say the suspects, one of which is enrolled at UMass Dartmouth, allegedly helped Dzhokhar Tsarnaev by disposing of his backpack, days after the bombing, which contained fireworks and a laptop computer. Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev are being charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice.

A third suspect, and alleged friend of Tsarnaev’s, Robel Phillipos, 19, is accused of “knowingly and willfully” making false statement to the FBI during the terrorism investigation in connection with the disposed items.

Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov are both nationals of Kazakhstan, and are here on student visas. Phillipos is an American citizen, and is originally from Cambridge, according to reports. Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov lived together in New Bedofrd, the same town where police scoured a landfill to unearth evidence—likely the laptop and bag. Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov began attending UMass Dartmouth with Tsarnaev in 2011.

In the days following the attack on Boylston Street, Kadyrbayev met with Dzhokhar and smoked a cigarette outside of his dorm room. He later told investigators that he noticed Dzhokhar had cut his hair short. When police released images of the alleged bombing suspects on television on April 18, Kadyrbayev texted Dzhokhar and said he looked like one of the suspects being sought by the FBI in connection with the explosions carried out with a second bomber, who was later identified as Dzhokhar’s brother, Tamerlan.

According to the criminal complaint, Dzhokhar responded to the accusation by saying “lol” and “you better not text me,” dismissing the allegations and visual similarities.

Prior to the text message exchange, however, officials say Kadyrbayev, Tazhayakov, and Phillipos went to see Dzhokhar in his dorm room. When they arrived, the suspect was not there, so the three watched a movie with Dzhokhar’s roommate, according to the complaint. They noticed a backpack in the room filled with emptied fireworks and “knew… [Dzhokhar] was involved in the Marathon bombing.” The complaint says Kadyrbayev decided to remove the bag, and the laptop, in order to help his friend “avoid trouble.” The three suspects later collectively decided to throw the items in the trash once they returned back to the New Bedford apartment.

The suspects allegedly lied to officials in a series of interviews following the marathon attacks, before eventually admitting to their role in disposing of the items, in the form of a written statement, during subsequent questioning with FBI agents. All three suspects were scheduled to appear before a judge in federal court at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

If convicted, Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov face a maximum sentence of five years in prison and $250,000 fine. Phillipos faces a maximum sentence of eight years in prison and a $250,000 fine, according to officials.

The full text of the complaint can be read here, courtesy of WBUR: 

Phillipos Complaint by mmemmott