FBI: Three Classmates Destroyed Bombing Evidence to Help Friend

Federal law officials believe three classmates of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev destroyed evidence in Darmouth while the suspected bombing brothers fought police in a gunfight in Watertown.

In a complaint filed in federal court Wednesday, special agent Scott Cieplik claims suspect Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov destroyed or concealed a laptop and backpack filled with fireworks. Third suspect Robel Phillipos, meanwhile, is being charged with lying to federal officials.

According to the complaint, the April 18 night started when Kadyrbayev texted Tsarnaev, needling his friend about his resemblance to the FBI photos released earlier that day. Tsarnaev wrote back “LOL” and then said Kadyrbayev could go get anything they needed from Tsarnaev’s UMass Dartmouth dorm room.

According to Cieplik, Kadyrbayev, Tazhayakov and Phillipos went to Tsarnaev’s dorm room to watch a movie. While there, Kadyrbayev noticed a backpack with fireworks. The powder was removed from inside the fireworks, which made Kadyrbayev believe that Tsarnaev really was the person in the FBI photos.

According to the complaint, he then grabbed the bag and Tsarnaev’s laptop and, along with Tazhayakov and Phillipos, went back to his own apartment The three decided to throw the bag and fireworks away because they didn’t want Tsarnaev to get into trouble. Kadyrbayev alone tossed the emptied firework husks and backpack into a trash bag and dropped it in a dumpster near the apartment, but with Tazhayakov’s and Phillipos’s knowledge.

When interviewed later, Tazhayakov largely corroborated Kadyrbayev’s story, mentioning the group also took a jar of Vaseline, which Tazhayakov thought Tsarnaev may have used to make the bombs. Tazhayakov said he knew Kadyrbayev was going to throw the backpack and fireworks into a dumpster.

Phillipos, meanwhile, initially denied going to Tsarnaev’s room with the others, saying instead he watched television at Tazhayakov’s apartment until about 4 a.m. Friday morning. In a second interview, Phillipos said he didn’t remember going to Tsarnaev’s room. When pressed, he then said he did, in fact, remember going to the room to see if the photos on television were actually of Tsarnaev, but that the door was locked when they arrived.

According to the affidavit, Phillipos came clean during a fourth interview on April 26, admitting he had lied in earlier talks with officials, and then signed a statement read to him. That statement corroborated the stories told by the other two suspects. Phillipos said the trio “started to freak out” when they realized their friend Tsarnaev was one of the marathon bombers and discussed throwing out the backpack and fireworks.

Also on April 26, agents searching a nearby landfill found the backpack, emptied fireworks and a homework sheet for one of Tsarnaev’s classes.

South End Patch