Feature

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

Over the past year, as he spent more time with his older brother, there were signs that the young man with “a heart of gold” was changing.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev “adjusted much more successfully to life in Massachusetts” than his brother Tamerlan, said Reuters.com. Friends describe him as a typical American teenager, the captain of his high school wrestling team, and a “mild-mannered pot-smoker” who had an easy sense of humor and a wide circle of friends. “He had a heart of gold,” Dzhokhar’s high school history teacher, Larry Aaronson, told The Boston Globe. “He was as gracious as possible.”

Among Dzhokhar’s friends at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, the 19-year-old engineering student—called “Johar” by friends—rarely mentioned his Islamic faith, said the Los Angeles Times, preferring instead to talk about soccer, cars, and girls. He decorated his dorm room with posters of women in bikinis, and with his mop of dark hair, he was considered “something of a ladies’ man” on campus. But over the past year, as Dzhokhar spent more time with his older brother—whom he idolized—there were signs he was changing. A strong student in high school, Dzhokhar began failing many of his college classes, and as he investigated his Chechen roots, his social media postings took on a new tone.

There were still some light-hearted references to rap music, partying, and popular television shows, said The Boston Globe, but Dzhokhar also tweeted that 9/11 was “an inside job” designed to make Muslims look bad. One of his final tweets, written in Russian, was: “I will perish young.”This week, friends struggled to reconcile the Dzhokhar they knew with the young man authorities say coldheartedly planted a bomb amid a Boston Marathon crowd, and then returned to the dorm for a party. “I know he’s a bad guy,” his former wrestling teammate Sanjaya Lanichhane said. “But for me, he’s still a good guy.”

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