It seems very likely that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has done terrible things. He and his brother were suspected of the bombing at the Boston Marathon and the events that have transpired since their photos were released on April 18 have done nothing to ease this suspicion. Still, seeing media coverage of the events between the time his photo was released and his subsequent capture, I couldn’t help but feel bad for him.
Lots of people have probably fantasized about violent acts, even if few carry out those acts. Watching the media coverage I couldn’t stop thinking about Dzhokhar as somebody whose fantasies had become real in the worst possible way. He and his brother seem to have carried out the bombings at the Boston Marathon without much of a plan. Afterward, they did not flee the city, they appear to have carried on as if nothing had happened. Dzhokhar attended class, went to the gym, and even went to a party.
It seems unlikely that the weight and ramifications of what he had done were “real” to him at this point. The fact that he stayed in town seems to indicate that he underestimated the ability of the police to identify him based on video and photos before and after the shooting (the sheer amount of data that police combed through to identify the suspects was, indeed, staggering). But three days after the bombing he was identified, looking like a frat guy, as the suspect in the white hat.
This is where I suspect that things started to get real. With no apparent plan (or, at least, no good plan), the Tsarnaev brothers shoot and kill an MIT police officer, hijack a car when they apparently already had one, allow the driver of the car to flee, and engage in a firefight with police. Likely injured, Dzhokhar gets in a car and attempts to escape, running over his own brother in the process, before eventually abandoning the car and escaping on foot. He and his brother had been identified. Things had gone awry. His brother was dead. Dzhokhar was alone.
Waking up on Friday the 19th and reading about the shootout in Watertown, I wondered how Dzohkhar felt. His brother was dead but the entire city of Boston was at a standstill because of him. If he had access to TV or the internet I surmised that he either felt very powerful or completely out of options. You can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube, as they say. Based on his eventual capture, though, I suspect that the latter is closer to how he actually felt.
Having been shot by the police, Dzhokhar spent Friday the 19th bleeding and hiding in a boat in somebody’s backyard. The world knew his name and what he was accused of doing. The entire city of Boston was looking for him. He knew that his brother was either dead or in police custody. Escape was impossible. His own capture or death was inevitable. He was as alone as a person can possibly be in this world, bleeding, lying in a boat in a stranger’s backyard. I felt bad for him.