Authorities captured a 19-year-old college student suspected in the deadly Boston Marathon bombings after one of the biggest manhunts in U.S. history paralyzed an entire metropolis.
By Will James
University of Massachusetts Dartmouth students said Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the at-large suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings, was seen on campus as recently as Wednesday, two days after the attack.
Patric Yaghoobian, 20 years old, said that he lives next to Tsarnaev’s third-floor dorm room and that his roommate saw Tsarnaev and shouted “Yo, Dzhokhar” in a greeting to him Wednesday.
“I heard my roommate call out to him this week, and I think that was on Wednesday, and I didn’t really see him, but people said they did see him this week,” Yaghoobian said.
Yaghoobian, a sophomore from Millbury, Mass., studying electrical engineering, said that nothing about Tsarnaev–the way he acted, the way he dressed, his dorm room–stood out. Tsarnaev, he said, appeared to be a “normal, average college kid” who often wore jeans and a “casual shirt” and sometimes wore a hat.
Tsarnaev, a sophomore, seemed to regularly attend late-night parties, often leaving his room at night and returning in the early-morning hours, Yaghoobian said.
“He would just be up late at night and come back at like 2 in the morning, so you could kind of tell that he did some partying,” Yaghoobian said. “And his room smelled like pot.”
Lauryn Mort, 19, who said she worked with Tsarnaev on an English project last spring, said her classmate was smart but seemed to care little about classwork. He often showed up late to class and sat in the back, she said.
In his interactions with other people, he would make jokes but could come off as “jerky” and “arrogant,” she added.
“He seemed to judge people, and he didn’t always seem to have the nicest judgments,” said Mort, a sophomore from Mattapoisett, Mass., studying biology.
“He kind of had an attitude. He didn’t really do the work in class, but he was a smart kid, and that used to frustrate the professor.”
“He didn’t take anything seriously,” she added.
Tsarnaev also seemed to put little effort into making friends, Mort said.
“He would talk, if you talked to him, but he really wouldn’t go out of his way to talk to anyone,” she said.
Some students remembered Tsarnaev from intramural sports clubs. Chris Baratta, 22, a senior nursing student from Acton, Mass., said he played against Tsarnaev in an intramural soccer game once last year. He described Tsarnaev as “pretty athletic” but otherwise unmemorable.
“He wasn’t even a blip on the radar,” he said.
Khanh Nguyen, 19, said he played basketball with Tsarnaev two or three times last fall and described him as “a nice guy” who seemed laid-back on the court.
“He’s kind of cool and not that hot-tempered,” said Nguyen, a freshman from Hanoi, Vietnam, studying finance. “He wasn’t too intense. He was pretty chill.”
The students who had encountered Tsarnaev at the university said they were shocked to learn he’s suspected in the bombings.
“He was, like, strange–but he wasn’t that strange,” said Mort. She said Tsarnaev was “definitely not religious” and didn’t seem especially political, either.
“He knew about politics, but he seemed like the kind of guy who would get into an argument with you about anything,” she said.
Yaghoobian said he was disturbed to think he slept so close to someone now accused of such serious crimes.
“Now that I know he’s suspected of doing bombings–what if he decided to bomb the building?” he said. “If he built one of those pressure-cooker bombs in his room and set it off after he left, I probably wouldn’t be here.”
University of Massachusetts Dartmouth students said the school told them early this morning that classes were canceled and sent out a mass text message later in the morning ordering them to evacuate the campus.
Police officers, some armed with assault rifles, were guarding the entrance of the campus Friday. Helicopters were touching down there and taking off throughout the day.
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What makes this story interesting is the hinting that Jahar wasn’t always Mr. Wonderful (even before the bombing).
It makes him so…human.