WORCESTER, Mass. (AP) — 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.
Cambridge City Manager Robert Healy said in a statement Sunday there has been no formal application for a burial permit or purchase of a cemetery plot. He said he is urging Tsarnaev’s family and the funeral director who has the body not to request a burial permit for the city-owned Cambridge Cemetery.
Healy says it would not be in the best interest of the city to execute a deed for a plot at Cambridge Cemetery.
“The difficult and stressful efforts of the citizens of the City of Cambridge to return to a peaceful life would be adversely impacted by the turmoil, protests, and wide spread media presence at such an interment,” Healy said.
He said the families who have loved ones interred at the cemetery also deserve to have their deceased family members rest in peace. He said other federal agencies should take the lead in the burial.
Stefan did not immediately return a call Sunday night seeking comment on Healy’s statement.
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.
Tsarni has denounced the acts his nephews are accused of committing and has said they brought shame to the family and the entire Chechen ethnicity. The brothers are ethnic Chechens from Russia who came to the United States about a decade ago with their parents. Both parents returned to Dagestan last year.
Tsarni said Sunday that he hopes to eventually see Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who is in a prison hospital and faces a potential death sentence if convicted of the terrorism plot.
“This is another person left all to himself,” he said.
Also on Sunday, the FBI conducted a court-authorized search in Cambridge as part of its ongoing investigation into the bombings, said Jason Pack, a supervisory special agent in the FBI’s press office. He declined to elaborate further.