DARTMOUTH, Mass. – A task force formed by the university where Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev lived said in a report released Thursday there’s no indication that its students were in danger before or after the deadly attack or that it could have foreseen his alleged actions.
The three-member task force, including university presidents from Connecticut and Montana, was formed by the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth in May. Its report came days after two of Tsarnaev’s university friends pleaded not guilty to charges they tried to thwart the bombing investigation by taking items, including fireworks and a laptop, from his dorm room while police looked for him.
The friends say they never intended to interfere with the investigation.
Tsarnaev has pleaded not guilty in the April 15 attack, in which two pressure cookers loaded with shrapnel exploded near the marathon’s finish line, killing three people and injuring more than 260 others.
Tsarnaev, 20, was not publicly identified as a suspect until days after the attack, and he was seen on campus after the bombing. But by April 19, Tsarnaev was the subject of a regional manhunt, and university officials evacuated 1,370 people from the campus once it learned one of its students was a suspect.
The task force praised the response by the university, which has about 9,000 students, half of whom live on campus, and the fact it was able to reopen just two days later.
“Because of UMass Dartmouth’s strong relationship with local law enforcement and other community partners, the response was calm, orderly and effective,” said task force member James Bueerrmann, president of the Police Foundation in Washington, D.C.
Also on the task force were Montana State University President Dr. Waded Cruzado and University of Connecticut President Dr. Susan Herbst.
The task force also looked at academic, financial and international student immigration policies at UMass Dartmouth. It wasn’t charged with determining if Tsarnaev’s actions could have been foreseen, but it wrote, “That being said, the Task Force did not find any indication that UMass Dartmouth could have foreseen the alleged actions of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, nor did the Task Force find any indication that students at UMass Dartmouth were in danger prior to, or after, the bombing of the Boston Marathon.”
The report noted several changes the university has made since the bombing, such as enhancing its emergency communications and installing new training exercises and evacuation drills. It also made several recommendations, including upgrading campus surveillance systems and reassessing the campus police force, which it said often operates at minimum staffing levels.
Tsarnaev’s older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who authorities say orchestrated the marathon bombing with him, died following a gunbattle with police three days after the attack.