Bryn Mawr Native Falsely Identified as Boston Bombing Suspect Found Dead

Bryn Mawr native Sunil Tripathi, a Brown University student on leave from the school, was recently found dead after having been identified by amateur Internet sleuths as the Boston Marathon bomber.

Tripathi’s body was found in the Providence River in Rhode Island yesterday. He had most recently been living in Providence but went missing in March. Last week, he was accused by often-anonymous Reddit and other social media users as the person responsible for the Boston Marathon bombings, which claimed three lives and injured dozens more last Monday. Tripathi’s name at one point appeared on the top of Twitter trends list and so-called Internet sleuths believed they had done the work the FBI could not in their identifying him as a murderer.

Those allegedly responsible for the bombings were later identified as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26. The younger brother is still alive and remains in custody.

Tripathi’s family released a statement, noting, in part,

As we carry indescribable grief, we also feel incredible gratitude. To each one of you, from our hometown to many distant lands, we extend our thanks for the words of encouragement, for your thoughts, for your hands, for your prayers, and for the love you have so generously shared.

Your compassionate spirit is felt by Sunil and by all of us.

As these days have shown us, the media is a powerful tool to be used carefully. We hope you continue to exercise caution and treat human lives with delicacy.

As noted by USA Today, Reddit did the right thing earlier this week and released a statement saying the site’s users had been wrong in identifying Tripathi as the culprit.

On Monday, Reddit general manager Erik Martin apologized for the “dangerous speculation” that “spiraled into very negative consequences for innocent parties.”

In a blog post, he specifically apologized to the Tripathi family “for the pain they have had to endure.”

“The Reddit staff and the millions of people on Reddit around the world deeply regret that this happened,” he said.

“We all need to look at what happened and make sure that in the future we do everything we can to help and not hinder crisis situations,” Martin added.

Other social media and comment thread users believed to have found evidence the entire episode was a “false flag” operation, in that the government planned and executed it in order to take away our personal freedoms. Much of that sleuthery was picked up by fringe media websites and talk radio hosts.

Follow Randy on Twitter: @RandyLoBasso

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