DARTMOUTH, Mass. » Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth this week after the explosions killed three people and wounded more than 180 others, his classmates told The Associated Press today.
The university evacuated its campus this morning after confirming that Tsarnaev, the suspect captured tonight after a massive manhunt, is a registered student there.
Robert Lamontagne, a university spokesman, declined to comment beyond confirming that Tsarnaev was registered there. He would not immediately say when Tsarnaev enrolled, what he was studying or whether he lived on campus.
His father told The Associated Press that his 19-year-old son was studying medicine. The UMass-Dartmouth campus, about an hour’s drive south of Boston on the state’s South Coast, has a pre-med program.
Students said Tsarnaev lived on the third floor of the Pine Dale dormitory. Harry Danso, who lives on the same floor, told the AP he saw him in a dorm hallway this week after the bombings.
“He was regular, he was calm,” said Danso, who described Tsarnaev as a quiet kid who would sometimes ask him for a homework assignment.
Sonia Ribeiro, 19, of Boston, was in a philosophy class with Tsarnaev. She also said he was on campus this week, although not in class.
“He was laid back. I would never expect this at all from him,” she said.
Law enforcement officials and family members identified the suspects as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his older brother Tamerlan. They were ethnic Chechen brothers who had lived in Dagestan, which neighbors Chechnya in southern Russia. Tamerlan was killed in a shootout with police while Dzhokhar escaped.
Florida Addy, 19, of Lynn, lived on the same dormitory floor as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev last year. She called him “drug” — the Russian word for friend, pronounced “droog” — and said they would sometimes hang out together in his room.
She said she hung out with him and some other Russian students at an apartment in New Bedford, not far from campus. She said they would always speak Russian among themselves.
New Bedford police said the FBI took three people in for questioning after searching a housing complex this evening.
Addy said Tsarnaev was quiet, friendly and a little mysterious, but in a charming way. He usually wore a hoodie or a white T-shirt and sweatpants, she said.
Addy said she just learned he had a girlfriend who did not attend UMass Dartmouth. The last time she saw him was last week when she bummed a cigarette off him, she said.
“He was nice. He was cool. I’m just in shock,” she said.
The school said in a statement that it evacuated campus “out of an abundance of caution,” amid a manhunt for Tsarnaev.
FBI agents, SWAT teams, a Massachusetts State Police armored truck and two helicopters were seen on the campus.
Two years ago, Brian Glyn Williams, a UMass Dartmouth professor of Islamic studies, helped Tsarnaev with a high school project about Chechnya. Williams was put in contact with the student through a friend who’s a teacher at Cambridge Rindge & Latin, Tsarnaev’s high school. The two communicated via email or telephone and never met face to face, even when Tsarnaev started attending the school.
The project was about Chechen history and the origins of its wars with Russia, and Williams got the impression that Tsarnaev was trying to reconnect with his ethnic identity and homeland.
Williams remembers Tsarnaev as polite and unremarkable. He doesn’t recall any sort of political or religious discussions.
“It’s sort of sickening,” Williams said of the bombings.
Smith reported from Providence, R.I. Associated Press writers Bob Salsberg and Pat Eaton-Robb contributed to this report from Boston.