Court documents released Wednesday shed new light on bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's activities in the days following the Boston bombings. The documents outline how three friends of Tsarnaev came to realize he might be involved in the deadly Boston Marathon attacks, and their alleged decisions to cover his tracks.
The documents detailing the prosecutors' case against the three make an argument for three friends caught in a panic and behaving badly, although at no point do the documents accuse them of aiding the plot to bomb the Boston Marathon.
The court documents outline the following scenario:
On the evening of April 18, three days after the Boston Marathon bombing, the FBI went on television and released photos of what they said were the suspects. To Robel Phillipos, one of the suspects looked strangely familiar.
Phillipos got on the phone with Dias Kadyrbayev, and told him to turn the news on because one of the alleged bombers looked an awful lot like their mutual friend Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
Kadyrbayev texted Tsarnaev, saying the resemblance was uncanny. Tsarnaev texted back: "lol" and "you better not text me."
The next night, on April 19, Tsarnaev was arrested while hiding bloodied in a boat in a suburban backyard after one of the most intense manhunts in U.S. history. Officials have accused him and his now-deceased older brother Tamerlan of committing the bombing attack.
Phillipos, Kadyrbayev, and another mutual friend, Azamat Tazhayakov, all 19-year-olds, were Wednesday. Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev are charged with conspiring to obstruct justice. Phillipos is charged with making false statements to federal investigators.
Phillipos, Kadyrbayev, Tazhayakov and Tsarnaev were classmates and friends at UMASS-Dartmouth, all having enrolled there in 2011. At the time of the bombing, court documents say Tsarnaev was living with Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov, although he had been assigned a separate dorm room and kept some belongings there.
Two days after the marathon, on April 17, Kadyrbayev met up with Tsarnaev and noticed he had shorter hair. That night, Tsarnaev also hung out with Tazhayakov, even giving him a ride home from class the next day, April 18.
After texting Tsarnaev on the night of the 18th, and being laughed off by Tsarnaev over his resemblance to the FBI suspect photos, the court documents allege the three friends met up at Tsarnaev's dorm room and were let in by his roommate, who said he had left a few hours earlier.
Tsarneav had texted Kadyrbayev, saying "I'm about to leave if you need something from my room take it."
According to court documents, the three "spent some time inside the room watching a movie" before at least one of them noticed "a backpack containing fireworks. The fireworks had been opened and emptied of gunpowder." Kadyrbayev also allegedly found a jar of Vaseline.
After those discoveries, it dawned on Kadyrbayev that his friend was almost certainly involved in the Boston bombing, and according to court documents, he next made what may end up as the biggest mistake of his life: He decided to remove the Vaseline and bag of empty fireworks from the room "in order to help his friend Tsarnaev avoid trouble."
Kadyrbayev also took Tsarnaev's laptop in the hope that doing so wouldn't tip off the roommate that something was amiss.
- Special Section: Boston Marathon Bombing
- Criminal complaint against Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov (PDF)
- Criminal complaint against Robel Phillipos (PDF)
When the trio got back to Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov's dorm room, Kadyrbayev said they decided to throw the backpack and computer in the trash, again in an effort to protect Tsarnaev. Kadyrbayev put the items into a black trash bag and simply took them outside and threw them in a dumpster. On April 19, Tazhayakov watched as a garbage truck emptied the dumpster.
According to court documents, Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov admitted their alleged role in the evidence cover up during multiple interviews with investigators, but Phillipos initially said he did not remember going to Tsarnaev's dorm room on April 18. It wasn't until a fourth interview that Phillipos' story matched that of Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov.
The backpack full of empty fireworks and jar of Vaseline were eventually recovered in a New Bedford landfill.