CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Three high school buddies of Dzhokar Tsarnaev, wearing shirts and jackets from the wrestling team, showed up at the crime scene outside his apartment Friday afternoon with a message about their old friend, now a terrorist bombing suspect.
John Casanova, who went to Cambridge Rindge and Latin School with Tsarnaev, said “we saw posts on Facebook that he’s a bad guy. That’s not the real story. We don’t want people thinking that he’s a bad guy.”
Tsarnaev is now the target of an unprecedented manhunt that his shut down the city of Boston and surrounding suburbs. Tsarnaev with his brother, who died after a police shoot-out early Friday, has been named one of the suspects in the bombing that killed three and injured more than 175 people Monday at the Boston Marathon.
Casanova, joined by friends Sanjaya Lamichhane and Peter Tenzin near the media throng on Cambridge Street and not far from Tsarnaev’s apartment, brought along a high school yearbook. They emphasized they were there to speak up about another side of the alleged bomber. The apartment and entire neighborhood had been sealed-off by police.
Casanova remembered Tsarnaev as someone who was “outgoing and talked to everybody” who was a “good athlete, good student.” He said that one time when Casanova asked Tsarnaev about his life back in Russia, he said, “I don’t want to talk about the past. I just want to live my life and go to school here.”
Lamichhane, who graduated in 2010, was Tsarnaev’s wrestling partner.
"We used to wrestle together. He would motivate me,” said Lamichanne, who also attended the University of Massachusetts with Tsarnaev. When he last talked to him, about a year ago, Lamichanne said that Tsarnaev told him “I am not doing as well as I expected.”
Tsarnaev graduated from Rindge and Latin 2011 and was both a team captain and an all-star wrestler. His coach told the Boston Globe that he was “just one of us.”
The three young men who came to the crime scene outside of Tsarnaev’s apartment said they only remembered Tsarnaev mentioning his father once.
Peter Tenzin was also involved in a program called “Best Buddies” with Tsarnaev that helped kids with learning disorders
"It’s a program where kids would meet up and we would take time and we would really do arts and crafts, eat, play"
"He was really involved into it," said Tenzin, remembering a Best Buddies dinner at a local jazz and blues club in Cambridge. "He was outgoing and really supportive of helping people and not doing harm."
Tenzin said he didn’t know the older brother but he “just doesn’t seem like the younger brother…complete opposite character”
"Show the best buddies picture," said Tenzin, as the friends flipped through the yearbook, wondering how an old friend could have ended up the suspect behind the biggest manhunt in state history.