In the midst of the Boston Marathon bombings, the search for the suspects and the death of one of the suspects, shooting incidents, death of a police officer and the successful hunt for the other, another story loomed it’s head in the news. For a few hours, hundreds of thousands of people received a message about the identity of the alleged Boston Marathon bombers that was painfully false. The story is of a Brown University student Sunil Thripathi, an American youngster of Indian origin who was falsely identified as being one of the bombers. Sunil a 22-year-old Brown University philosophy student who went missing on March 16, became a trending name on Reddit and Twitter worldwide, as a young woman who went to school with thought she recognized him from one of the photos released by the FBI. Redditors also picked up on the supposed likeness, and by the evening Reddit and Twitter (on which “Sunil Tripathi” would soon trend worldwide) had exploded with the theory.
Sunil’s family, who live in Radnor Township, Pennsylvania and describe him as “kind, gentle, and shy,” had launched a social-media campaign to find him; their Facebook page garnered nearly a quarter million views in the first week of his disappearance. As the police search for Sunil expanded, his story began to make national news last month with mentions from Fox News, ABC News, the Boston Globe, and other outlets. By the same evening the Tripathi family began to be flooded with calls, Facebook posts, and harassing emails raising the allegation. The family suspended the Facebook page at around 10 p.m., flagged the messages, and reached out to law enforcement agencies, including the FBI. National & local news stations had caught wind of the story spreading on the internet and soon roughly a dozen news vans had parked themselves at the Tripathi residence in Radnor eager to question the family. (All of this, even though Sunil’s Tripathi’s name was never once mentioned on the Boston police scanner prior to the initial suspicions on Twitter.)
After hours of fevered speculation, early on Friday morning NBC’s Pete Williams batted down the rumors, and broke the news that authorities had identified brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as the primary suspects. The moderator of the Reddit page that was based on finding & identifying the bombers issued a public apology and asked each & every user who had remove any and all links about him. However Sunil’s sister says that other than some individuals, the family had yet received any apologies from news organizations whose employees helped push the erroneous ID. The Tripathi family’s nightmare continues. Sunil Tripathi remains missing; authorities do not suspect foul play, and an FBI forensic analysis turned up zero clues to his whereabouts. The family has launched another campaign on Facebook encouraging supporters to write messages of love and encouragement on their hands and post the photos online.
Hope he is found alive and well and can return to his family safely.