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Boston bombings: Man remembers suspect in white hat

April 19, 2013|By Molly Hennessy-Fiske
  • Updated photo of Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, released by the FBI.
Updated photo of Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, released… (FBI )

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- Orlando Gonzalez said he remembers meeting the Boston Marathon bombing suspect in the white hat about four months ago. 

"I think he came over here and bought glue," said Gonzalez, 38, who works at a City Paint store in Cambridge. He watched through a store window Friday as police blocked off nearby streets and SWAT teams wielding long guns patrolled the streets.

He said he didn't remember the man that the FBI has identified as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, until he saw his photos at a televised FBI press conference and again from a reporter outside his store Friday morning. He knew that thin, paler face, he realized.

[For the Record, 8:40 a.m. PDT April 19: An earlier version of this post identified the suspect in the Boston bombing case as Djohar Tsarnaev. Officials have amended the name to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.]

Officials locked down the city as they hunted for him. The other suspect was killed in a confrontation with police hours earlier. Doctors said he had gunshot and blast wounds. 

When the suspect came into the paint store, Gonzalez said, he didn't look that old. "He was a young kid -- he don't look 19, he looked 16 or 17. He did not talk too much. He just took the glue and left.”

He said that the man had a skateboard but that he didn't remember much else -- what type of glue he bought, why or how he paid.

"He looked like a shy kid," he said.

Gonzalez said he didn't recognize the suspect in the FBI photo at first "because he had a hat on" and he had not had a hat on at the store. He had not seen him or the other suspect in the neighborhood, he said.

Each day, Gonzalez said, he sees an international crowd of customers including Irish Americans, Indians, Brazilians, Portuguese and Latinos.

"Who would have thought it would happen nearby?" he said of the suspect's residence. "I thought this guy lived somewhere far away."

Gonzalez kept glancing out the window. Relatives and friends called to check on him and he told them the story of "el flaco," the skinny one.

"It bothers me," he said of the connection to his neighborhood. "A lot of innocent people died."

"I didn't think it was going to be a big deal in Cambridge,” he said.

When he arrived at 7 a.m., police were already setting up. They signaled that he shouldn't open.

He pointed down nearby Norfolk Street.

"Who's going to think it would be so close?" he said. "You think he's in there?"

"They're taking people out of their houses – I see a lot of people coming up,” he said. "Yeah, they're taking people out."

Another clerk, Alan Antoine, 43, of Stoughton, said: "I was scared when I saw it was here. We've got so many people coming over here."

Then later, ruefully: "They're not going to catch him alive."

molly.hennessy-fiske@latimes.com

ALSO:

Boston shut down amid bombing manhunt

One Boston bombing suspect dies at hospital, officials say

Boston awakens to learn 1 bombing suspect is dead, the other on run 

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