BOSTON — Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev, then a senior at a prestigious school, was awarded a $2,500 scholarship in May 2011 from the city of Cambridge, Massachusetts, to pursue higher education. Now the 19-year-old is on the run, described as “armed and dangerous” and suspected of the Boston Marathon bombing.
Two brothers from a violence-wracked Russian region, one now dead, one alive and at large. After grainy surveillance images of two men in baseball caps were released Thursday by the FBI as an appeal for the public’s help in identifying them, a portrait quickly emerged Friday of the young men suspected in the attack.
Authorities still have not mentioned any possible motive for Monday’s deadly attack, and those who know Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in the Boston area expressed shock Friday at how a bright, likeable young man had taken a violent turn.
Tsarnaev and his 26-year-old brother, Tamerlan, who was killed during a violent police chase overnight, had been living together in Cambridge, outside Boston.
An uncle, Ruslan Tsarni, who lives in a Washington suburb, told The Associated Press that the men lived together and had been in the United States for about a decade. They came from a Russian region that has been plagued by an Islamic insurgency related to separatist wars.
“My son is a true angel,” father Anzor Tsarnaev told The Associated Press by telephone from the Russian city of Makhachkala. “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.”
Anzor Tsarnaev added, “They were set up, they were set up! I saw it on television; they killed my older son Tamerlan.” He ended the call angrily, saying, “Leave me alone, my son’s been killed.”
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s page on the Russian social networking site Vkontakte says he attended Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, graduating in 2011, the year he won the scholarship. It was celebrated with a reception at City Hall, according to a news release issued at the time.
On the site, he describes himself as speaking Chechen as well as English and Russian. His world view is described as “Islam” and he says his personal goal is “career and money.”
On Friday, those who knew him were stunned. A host of a Boston-based public radio program, Robin Young, posted on Twitter a photo of her nephew with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, their arms around each other, at their graduation.
“Heartbreaking pic,” she wrote. A caller to the program who identified himself as a social studies teacher at the school said Tsarnaev struck him as having “a heart of gold … an all-around wonderful kid.”
Before moving to the United States, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev attended School No. 1 in Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan, a predominantly Muslim republic in Russia’s North Caucasus that has become an epicenter of the Islamic insurgency that spilled over from the Chechnya region.
The secretary to the principal of School No. 1 in Makhachkala, Irina Bandurina, told the AP that Tsarnaev left for the U.S. in March 2002.
Tsarnaev was registered as a student at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, the school said Friday. The campus closed down and was evacuated as police searched it.
Tsarnaev’s face became known to a global audience Thursday in the video released by the FBI, when he was identified as Suspect Number 2. Images showed him walking down a sidewalk, unnoticed by marathon spectators. He followed Tamerlan by about 10 feet (3 meters). He wore what appeared to be a gray hoodie under a dark jacket and pants, and a white baseball cap facing backward and pulled down.
Tamerlan was stockier, in khaki pants, a light T-shirt, and a dark jacket. The brim of his baseball cap faced forward, and he may have been wearing sunglasses.
On Friday, Bunker Hill Community College officials said Tamerlan Tsarnaev was a student there for three semesters: fall 2006, spring 2007 and fall 2008. Spokeswoman Patricia Brady said they had little information on him other than that he studied accounting at the Boston school.
According to the website spotcrime.com, Tamerlan was arrested for domestic violence in July 2009, after assaulting his girlfriend.
He was an amateur boxer, listed as a competitor in a National Golden Gloves competition in 2009.