WORCESTER, Mass. — The uncle of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev arrived in Massachusetts on Sunday to arrange for his burial, saying he understands that “no one wants to associate their names with such evil events.”
Ruslan Tsarni, of Montgomery Village, Md., and three of his friends met with the Worcester funeral home director and prepared to wash and shroud Tsarnaev’s body according to Muslim tradition. The 26-year-old died after a gun battle with police on April 19.
Funeral director Peter Stefan said he hasn’t been able to find a cemetery in Massachusetts willing to take the body. He 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.
Tsarni told reporters that he is arranging for Tsarnaev’s burial because religion and tradition call for his nephew to be buried. He would like him buried in Massachusetts because he’s lived in the state for the last decade, he said.
“I’m dealing with logistics. A dead person must be buried,” he said.
He said he was grateful to Stefan for agreeing to arrange the burial and to his friends for accompanying him to Massachusetts to aid with the funeral.
“These are my friends who feel for me ... as I do understand no one wants to associate their names with such evil events,” he 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. His 19-year-old brother, Dzhokhar, was captured.
Stefan said he has received calls from people criticizing him and calling him “un-American” for being willing to handle Tamerlan 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!”
The state medical examiner ruled that Tsarnaev died from gunshot wounds and blunt trauma to his head and torso, and authorities have said his brother ran him over in a chaotic getaway attempt. 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.