Friends and family of the 19-year-old Boston Marathon suspect who remains at large, are stunned and shocked that he's being accused of being one of the Chechnyan brothers who detonated two bombs along the marathon route, killing three people and injuring almost 200. "This is crazy, it's not possible. Crazy. Unbelievable," says the uncle of the teen, Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev, and his 26-year-old brother, Tamerlan, who was killed by authorities. Both brothers allegedly set the bombs and their faces were caught on camera. Uncle Alvi Tsami, who lives outside of Baltimore, Maryland, said, "They can't do this stuff. There's no way. I don't believe any of my nephews are involved in this horrible incident." His brother, Ruslan Tsarni, gave a press conference at his home.
While this might sound like a case of blind faith from a relative, friends and teachers who knew the 19-year-old Dzhokhar from his time at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School in Cambridge are just as astonished.
Teacher Larry Aaronson, who knew Dzhokhar from his time in school, had nothing but good things to say about the suspect, who was wearing a white hat in the surveillance photos. Dzhokhar was a star wrestler at the school. Aaronson told CNN:
Nothing in his character or demeanor suggested he would do this. He was so grateful to be here, to be at school, to be accepted. He was compassionate, jovial, forthcoming. He was a lovely, lovely kid. I'm not trying to protect or cover up. I'm just saying what I knew about him. He was a wonderful kid and I was proud of him. He was not a troublemaker.
Friends from school have been calling into news stations, saying how Dzhokhar was a regular kid, who enjoyed partying, wrestling, and who seemed to fit into the American lifestyle completely.
Other friends said on live TV: "He's as American as anyone."
"To think he'd be capable of something like this is beyond belief."
"There was nothing malicious about him at all."
Both brothers were athletes, Dzhokhar a wrestler, and Tamerlan a boxer.
The father of the pair, reportedly reached by the Associated Press in Russia, described at least one of the boys (it's unclear which one) as an "angel." He also said that his youngest son was a second year medical student, but there's no evidence of that yet. "He is such an intelligent boy. We expected him to come on holidays here," he reportedly said.
It's important to remember that the brothers' father may not speak English and this could be a translation. It's not unusual for friends and relatives of people who commit horrific crimes to be taken by complete surprise. Although once the uncle got his bearings and began to speak to other reporters, he called his oldest nephew a "loser" and also said, "I wish they never existed."
His brother, Ruslan Tsarni, who lives in Montgomery County, Maryland and has had no contact with the bombers' side of the family for many years, had a similar assessment, telling the media in a live conference: "They're losers. They have a hatred for those who were able to settle themselves. Anything having to do with Islam or religion, it's fake."
But many who knew the brothers, especially the youngest, had so many good things to say.
How could someone who seems so "good" on some levels be so "evil" on others? Experts point out that as crazy as it may seem to kill innocent civilians, terrorists often see themselves as the "good guys." They feel they are fighting for a cause. They don't see America as Americans see their country.
Just like it is with anyone who commits a crime, it's important to remember that the family may be just as horrified and shocked as anyone else. When a CNN reporter said, "We're sorry," to uncle Alvi Tsami, who was visibly upset, he replied:
"It's crazy, it's unbelievable. I'm sorry too. If they did this, I'm sorry too."
Can you imagine being a friend or family member of the suspects?
Image via CNN