WORCESTER, Mass. >> The uncle of a Boston Marathon bombing suspect killed in a gun battle with police arrived at a funeral home Sunday to prepare his body for burial.
Ruslan Tsarni of Montgomery Village, Md., and three other men met with Worcester funeral home director Peter Stefan. The men who accompanied Tsarni plan to wash and shroud the body of 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev according to Muslim tradition, the uncle said.
Tsarnaev, who had appeared in surveillance photos wearing a black cap and was identified as Suspect No. 1, died days after the April 15 bombing, which killed three people and injured more than 260 others.
Tsarni told reporters that he is arranging for Tsarnaev’s burial because religion and tradition call for his nephew to be buried. He said his friends came along to help him prepare Tsarnaev’s body and he understands that "no one wants to associate their names with such evil acts."
Stefan said he has received calls from people criticizing him and calling him "un-American" for being willing to handle Tsarnaev’s funeral.
"We take an oath to do this. Can I pick and choose? No. Can I separate the sins from the sinners? No," he said. "We are burying a dead body. That’s what we do."
A half dozen protesters gathered outside the funeral home Sunday holding signs and American flags and chanting "USA!" One sign read: "Do not bury him on U.S. soil." Several people drove by the funeral home earlier Sunday and yelled, including one man who shouted, "Throw him off a boat like Osama bin Laden!"
Stefan said he hasn’t been able to find a cemetery in Massachusetts willing to take the body, but he has received offers to provide a grave and to contribute money toward the funeral expenses from people in other states. Stefan said he plans to ask the city of Cambridge, where Tsarnaev lived, to provide a burial plot, and if Cambridge turns him down, he will seek help from state officials.
Stefan said Tsarnaev’s uncle told him he is anxious to bury his nephew.
"They just want to get it over with. They want to get him buried," Stefan said.
The state medical examiner ruled that Tsarnaev died from gunshot wounds and blunt drama to his head and torso. Stefan said Sunday that the family won’t request that an independent medical examiner perform a second autopsy, but representatives from the family’s legal team might photograph Tsarnaev’s body before it’s washed.
Tsarni has denounced the acts that his nephews — Tamerlan and younger brother Dzhokhar — are accused of committing and has said they brought shame to the family and the entire Chechen ethnicity. The brothers are ethnic Chechens from Russia who came to the United States about a decade ago with their parents. Both parents returned to Dagestan last year.
Dzhokhar, 19, is in a prison hospital, facing a potential death sentence if convicted of the terrorism plot.