Friend says he gave Boston Marathon bomber a handgun
BOSTON (AP) — Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev borrowed a gun two months before the 2013 attack and “kept coming up with excuses” for not returning it, a close friend testified Tuesday.
Prosecutors have identified the Ruger handgun as the gun used by Tsarnaev and his brother to kill a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer as they attempted to flee the area three days after the bombings.
Stephen Silva testified that several weeks after he first showed Tsarnaev the gun, Tsarnaev asked if could “potentially borrow” it.
“He said he wanted to rip (rob) some kids from URI,” Silva said, apparently a reference to the University of Rhode Island.
Silva said that after a few weeks, he asked Tsarnaev for the gun back, but Tsarnaev repeatedly made up excuses for why he didn’t return the gun.
The bombing killed three people and injured more than 260 others. Tsarnaev, 21, faces the possibility of the death penalty if convicted.
Silva, who was charged last year with gun possession and drug charges, said Tuesday he was testifying against Tsarnaev as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors. He acknowledged that he is hoping prosecutors will recommend a sentence below five years.
Silva appeared uncomfortable, sighing at times as he testified against the man he described as a close friend he had known since they met in the eighth grade. Tsarnaev, seated at a table with his attorneys about 12 feet (four meters) away from Silva, gave him several long looks during his testimony.
During opening statements in the trial, Tsarnaev’s lawyer admitted that he participated in the bombings, but said his older brother, Tamerlan, was the mastermind and recruited him to help. His lawyer said it was Tamerlan who used the gun to shoot MIT police Officer Sean Collier.
But prosecutors, through Silva’s testimony, established that Tsarnaev is the one who obtained the gun used in Collier’s killing.
During cross-examination, Tsarnaev’s lawyer suggested again that Tamerlan was a domineering older brother and had a powerful influence over Dzhokhar. Attorney Miriam Conrad asked Silva if he knew why Dzhokhar had never introduced him to his brother.
“Did he tell you ‘You don’t want to meet my brother,’” Silva said.
“Yes,” replied Silva. “He said his brother was very strict ... very opinionated, and that since I wasn’t a Muslim, you know, he might give me a little (expletive) for that.”
Prosecutors say the Tsarnaevs committed the bombings to retaliate against the U.S. for wars in Muslim countries.