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Social media falsely link student to bombing

University officials and family members confirmed the rumors were unfounded

Claims on social media platforms that Sunil Tripathi, a former member of the class of 2012, was a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings were dispelled Friday morning when Boston Police Department officers named Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as the two suspects. 

Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, was killed during a confrontation with police early Friday morning following a shooting at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a shooting and bomb scare in Watertown, Mass. His brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, was caught Friday after an extensive manhunt that effectively shut down the city of Boston. He remains in serious condition.

Family members and University officials confirmed that Tripathi was not a suspect Friday morning.

Widespread Internet discussion and multiple media outlets claimed Thursday evening and early Friday morning that Tripathi’s name was heard on police scanners as one of two suspects in Monday’s bombings. Multiple news outlets, including the Atlantic, later confirmed Tripathi’s name had not been mentioned on police scanners.

“The last 18 hours have generated tremendous and painful attention — on social media platforms Facebook, Twitter and Reddit, as well as from television media inquiries — linking Sunil to the video stills released by the FBI yesterday afternoon,” Tripathi’s family wrote in a statement Friday.

“Reports that (Tripathi) was a possible suspect in the Boston Marathon investigation were untrue, and there is no connection between him and the events in Boston,” wrote Russell Carey ’91 MA’06, executive vice president for planning and policy, and Margaret Klawunn, vice president for campus life and student services, in a community-wide email Friday.

“Our thoughts are with the Tripathi family who have had to endure additional pain due to unfounded and irresponsible Internet rumors,” they wrote.

Rumors that Tripathi was associated with the bombings circulated Thursday after a high school classmate of Tripathi’s posted FBI stills and pictures of Tripathi on Twitter, suggesting resemblance. Comments alluding to the rumors surfaced on the Facebook page the family has devoted to searching for Tripathi, and family members disabled the page until early Friday morning.

Family members reached out to law enforcement officers when traffic started “picking up” on the Facebook page, said Tripathi’s brother Ravi Tripathi ’09. “Various levels of law enforcement” stayed in touch with the family throughout the night, he added.

“At no point did it appear to anyone that Sunil was involved in any way,” he said.

University officials, including Klawunn and University Chaplain Janet Cooper Nelson, also contacted the family Thursday night, Ravi Tripathi said.

Family members continue searching for Tripathi, who went missing March 16, mother Judy Tripathi said. They hope to “use as much of this energy and buzz that has been created to help us in our search for Sunil,” she said. “We’re still as actively as ever looking.”


Last updated Monday April 22, 2013 at 2:25 a.m.

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