(CAMBRIDGE, Mass.) — The narrow street that is home to the Tsarnaev family looks like many others in the city just across the river from Boston, but neighbors were still reeling from the news that members of the family who lived next door could be suspected of being behind the Boston marathon bombings.
As soon as it became clear early Friday morning that the suspects were Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his younger brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, police swarmed the street. They focused on a brown house here where the Tsarnaevs lived in an apartment on the third floor.
Just over 24 hours later, there were no police in sight — just neighbors still stunned that they could live so close to the alleged perpetrators.
Matthew Stuber, 29, who lives next door to the Tsarnaev family, described the younger Tsarnaev as a “sweetheart, a young, cute kid” who was “normal” and “very American.”
He said Dzhokhar seemed close to his father, Anzor, whom he would help fix up cars outside their home, something neighbors think Anzor Tsarnaev did to make money.
Stuber, whose apartment is in a house that shares a yard with the house where the Tsarnaevs have an apartment, said he watched Dzhokhar, 19, playing soccer as he grew up and said he is convinced the only way he could have been involved in the attack is if he was “corrupted” by his older brother, who he suspects had a “strong influence” on Dzhokhar.
“He’s just a boy,” Stuber told reporters, standing in his doorway. “He was just a young boy. It’s shocking. I certainly can’t put it together that he fired a weapon potentially.”
He said it has been hard for him to fathom that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev could be the same person seen on video placing the explosives down in the crowd, including by 8-year-old Martin Richard, who died in the blast.
“It’s very hard to think that act wasn’t faceless,” Stuber said. “He chose a spot. He saw their faces immediately. To me it’s kind of hard to believe a young boy with no life experience is at all capable … maybe I’m putting too much blame on the brother.”
Stuber said the area was swarmed by police early Friday morning and they watched it unfold on television, despite being next door, too afraid to come out of their home. Eventually, police told them to leave, and they didn’t return until Saturday.
Despite living close to the family, Stuber said he wasn’t close with them. He described Dzhokhar as “introverted” and said he’d just seen him come home from the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth about two weeks ago, saying he looked exactly the same and was just hanging out with friends in the yard.
Another neighbor, Harvey Smith, who lives in the basement apartment in the same building as the Tsarnaev family, also said he did not know them well, despite living there since before the family moved in around 2002, he said.
Although he is speculating, Smith agreed with Stuber that he believes the elder brother had sway over the younger, describing Tamerlan as “more domineering.”
“I would imagine because he’s the older brother,” Smith told reporters from the front of the home that housed their apartments. “He was taller and bigger and had that personality.”
Smith added: “I wish the whole thing never happened. … I thought he was a good kid just like everybody else.”
Smith was clearly still stunned by the revelations of the past two days, describing the situation as “awful” and saying he is still in shock.
“Very much, very much,” Smith said, when asked whether he was surprised. “I can’t even believe I’m talking to reporters.”
He said he spoke with the FBI Friday, and they asked “a lot of questions, which I answered.”
There was no sign of any law enforcement outside the home Saturday.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
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