Northampton student knew younger bombing suspect
This photo released Friday, April 19, 2013 by the Federal Bureau of Investigation shows a suspect that officials identified as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, being sought by police in the Boston Marathon bombings Monday. (AP Photo/Federal Bureau of Investigation) Purchase photo reprints »
This wanted poster was released by the FBI on Friday, April 19, 2013, showing Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the suspect the FBI orginally called suspect number 2 in the bombings at the Boston Marathon. (AP Photo/FBI) Purchase photo reprints »
This combination of undated photos shows Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, left, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19. The FBI says the two brothers and suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing killed an MIT police officer, injured a transit officer in a firefight and threw explosive devices at police during a getaway attempt in a long night of violence that left Tamerlan dead and Dzhokhar still at large on Friday, April 19, 2013. The ethnic Chechen brothers lived in Dagestan, which borders the Chechnya region in southern Russia. They lived near Boston and had been in the U.S. for about a decade, one of their uncles reported said. (AP Photo/The Lowell Sun & Robin Young) Purchase photo reprints »
Steffen Herter of Amherst dives back to first as Jake Laga of Northampton prepares to catch during a pick attempt Thursday in Amherst. Herter was safe. Purchase photo reprints »
Jake Laga of Northampton only met Dzhokar Tsarnaev a couple times on the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth campus where they both attend school, but still he was dumbfounded the student he had played soccer with on Xbox is accused of the Boston Marathon bombings.
“He was chill, so it was shocking when I saw it was him on the news,” Laga said in a telephone interview Friday evening from his home in Northampton after he had been evacuated with all other students on campus. “I never would have guessed.”
It was through Laga’s former roommate that he met Tsarnaev last year. Both Laga’s roommate and Tsarnaev were born in Kazakhstan — something the two bonded over, Laga said.
“I actually sort of knew him,” said Laga, a UMass Dartmouth sophomore studying accounting. “Sometimes he’d be in my room. I remember playing a couple soccer games on Xbox with him. It’s pretty crazy.”
Laga was among the people who left the UMass Dartmouth campus Friday morning under an evacuation ordered by university administration. A notice on the UMass Dartmouth website posted at 10:28 a.m. states the evacuation was “in response to information that the person being sought in connection with the Boston Marathon bombing is a registered student. State, local, and campus police are on campus to assist with the evacuation and to conduct a full investigation.”
Laga said the evacuation was calm. Morgan Cooper, a UMass Dartmouth senior from Sunderland, said the atmosphere was confused at first, but once people realized they were being asked to leave because the suspected terrorist is a UMass Dartmouth student the mood turned nervous.
“There were policemen and SWAT and news reporters everywhere when we were all leaving campus,” Cooper said in an interview via Facebook.
Laga said rumors circulated in the wake of the evacuation announcement. He heard police found chemicals under Tsarnaev’s bed in the Pine Dale Residence Hall. Laga also heard that Pine Dale residents had originally been sent an email telling them they had to evacuate because of a burst pipe. Shortly after, he said, the students were told they were being evacuated because bombs could be inside the dorm.
“When I woke up everyone said classes are canceled and we were all like, ‘Woo!’ And then we started to find out why we were leaving, and it was like, ‘Damn, I can’t believe it,’ ” Laga said,
Cooper said that despite the crowd’s anxiety during the evacuation, there was a sense of security created by the order, and also in the way people were helping each other.
“Everyone was in a hurry to leave, but the amount of support and care that was being given to fellow students was unbelievable,” she said. “Everyone was making sure people had rides and some place safe to go.”
Cooper, a member of the school’s swim team, added that some professors and coaches drove to campus to offer students rides to wherever they needed to go.
Laga and Cooper said it isn’t clear when the campus will reopen. UMass Dartmouth will be closed Saturday, according to a notice on the university’s website.
Cooper said she was confident Tsarnaev would be apprehended.
“The Boston Marathon bombing was so close to home and it shook our campus. To then find out that one of the suspects went to our school and had been on campus after the bombing was just unreal and extremely nerve-racking,” she said. “I have confidence in our law enforcement and our UMass Dartmouth community and I believe this will end. We are strong.”