Panel applauds UMass-Dartmouth handling of Boston Marathon terror suspect investigation

A panel that examined University of Massachusetts Dartmouth’s involvement with Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev today gave school administrators and students high marks for their response to a federal investigation that led to the school’s evacuation and to criminal charges against three former students.

The panel strongly supported the administration at the school where Tsarnaev was a sophomore who allegedly stored some of the material used by he and his brother, Tamerlan, to build the bombs they detonated at the Marathon finish line, killing three and wounding some 250.

“The Task Force believes that the state of Massachusetts and the nation should feel satisfied and proud about the way this campus managed what was truly a challenge of monumental proportions,’’ the panel, led by Montana State University President Waded Cruzado, concluded.

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Tsarnaev returned to the campus, where he had been allowed to register for classes despite a $20,000 tuition bill, one day after the bombings, but then rejoined his brother in the greater Boston area. Tamerlan was killed and Dzhokhar was taken into custody in Watertown following a massive manhunt April 19.

The search for the Marathon bombers also led to the closure of the Southeastern Massachusetts campus while heavily armed federal and state police searched the campus both for suspects, and evidence.

Three of Tsaranev’s friends, all of whom are now former UMass Dartmouth students, face federal charges of disposing bombing evidence from Tsaranev’s dorm room, charges the students’ attorneys reject. Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov are accused of obstruction of justice; a third friend, Robel Phillipos, is accused of lying to investigators.

In the report, the panel concluded that UMass Dartmouth became embroiled in the Marathon case only because Tsarnaev attended the college.

“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 on April 15, 2013,’’ the panel found.

The panel, which also inncluded University of Connecticut President Susan Herbst and James Bueerrmann, president of the Police Foundation, was tasked with examining emergency planning, procedures used to determine when a student was in “good standing’’ and policies related to international students, two of whom are accused of disposing Marathon evidence.

“It is obvious that the campus is fortunate to have competent and experienced individuals who assessed the situation quickly and moved forward in a deliberate manner characterized by the use of an abundance of caution,’’ the panel said. “It should be noted: at the end of such an unsettling experience, the campus community smoothly returned to its daily operations.’’