The shaggy hair and haunting stare of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one of the suspected Boston Marathon bombers, has angered many who say it’s a disservice to the victims, but the magazine says it hoped to look at how a seemingly normal teen became a “monster.”
1. “To think that a kid we mentored and loved like a son could have been responsible for all this death.”
The Boston Marathon blast took away half of the hearing of Peter Payack, the man who was Tsarnaev’s wrestling coach at the Cambridge Rindge and Latin School. “I felt like a bullet went through my heart,” the coach said. “It was beyond shocking. It was like an alternative reality.”
2. One of the agents with the FBI’s Crisis Negotiating Unit invoked Payack’s name when Tsarnaev was bleeding and being asked to surrender while hiding in a boat. The negotiator told Payack he thought it helped end the standoff.
“Maybe by telling Jahar that I was thinking about him, it gave him pause,” Payack said. “Maybe he’d seen himself going out as a martyr for the cause. But all of a sudden, here’s somebody from his past, a past that he liked, that he fit in with, and it hit a soft spot.”
3. He “liked soccer, hip-hop, girls; obsessed over The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones; and smoked a copious amount of weed.”
His laid-back demeanor “made him that dude you could always just vibe with,” one friend said.
4. The mother of the two brothers adored them. “Jahar was the baby,” his mother’s “dwog,” or “heart.”
She compared Dzhokhar’s older brother Tamerlan, a tall, muscular boy, to Hercules. Jahar, “looked like an angel,” says Anna Nikeava, a neighbor who befriended the family when they arrived in America, and he was called “Jo-Jo” or “Ho.”
5. Tsarnaev is said to have assimilated best among his family.
He arrived in America speaking virtually no English, but by high school he was fluent with only a trace of an accent.
6. Only one friend recalls even one red flag about terrorism from the suspect.
One time a friend told him he thought certain aspects of religion were harmful, and brought up the 9/11 attacks.
At which point Tsarnaev, his friend Will says, told him he didn’t want to talk about it anymore. Will asked why. “He said, ‘Well, you’re not going to like my view.’”
He said, “…Some of those acts were justified because of what the U.S. does in other countries, and that they do it so frequently, dropping bombs all the time.”
7. He kept his family life separate from school, sports, and friends.
Friends say they didn’t feel like outsiders were very common at his house, and no one ever went inside. When wrestlers had to have a family member come to Senior Night to walk them to receive a flower and a photo, no one from Tsarnaev’s family came.
8. His brother Tamerlan gave signs that he had a darker side, though. He once told his mother that he felt like he had two people living inside him.
His uncle urged him to join the Army. It would give him structure, he said, and help him perfect his English. But Tamerlan laughed, his uncle recalls, for suggesting he kill “our brother Muslims.”
9. Tamerlan began to read more Islamic websites, as well as U.S. conspiracy sites, like Alex Jones’ InfoWars.
He “quit drinking and smoking pot, and started to pray five times a day, even taking his prayer rug to the boxing gym.”
10. Tamerlan told his brother and visiting Muslim friend to focus on their faith if they were going to be on the internet. He gave them a book called Islam 101.
One friend of Tsarnaev’s friends said, “It was crazy because back a few years ago, Timmy was so like us, a regular dude, boxing, going to school, hanging out, partying all the time. But then he changed and became anti-fun.”
11. Tsarnaev’s sisters were Americanized but then they vanished. Both girls were reportedly set up in arranged marriages. “Underneath it all, they were a screwed-up family,” Nikeava, the Tsarnaevs’ neighbor, says.
“They weren’t Chechen” — they had not come from Chechnya, as she and others had — “and I don’t think the other families accepted them as Chechens. They could not define themselves or where they belonged. And poor Jahar was the silent survivor of all that dysfunction,” she says. “He never said a word. But inside, he was very hurt, his world was crushed by what was going on with his family. He just learned not to show it.”
12. During two years in college, Tsarnaev was homesick, suffered from insomnia, had repeated zombie dreams, and missed his dad.
“I can see my face in my dad’s pictures as a youngin, he even had a ridiculous amount of hair like me,” he tweeted in June 2012.
13. “Never underestimate the rebel with a cause,” he declared on Twitter, following more Islamic accounts.
On Twitter Tsarnaev said the Prophet Muhammad was now his role model. “For me to know that I am FREE from HYPOCRISY is more dear to me than the weight of the ENTIRE world in GOLD,” he posted.
14. He was failing his classes and his family lost its welfare benefits in November 2012.
In January, Tamerlan and his wife reportedly lost the Section 8 housing subsidy that had enabled them to afford their apartment.