A friend of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, charged in the deadly 2013 bombing of the Boston Marathon, is facing gun charges involving a weapon that is the same model as the one used in the shooting of MIT police officer Sean Collier.
In the days after the bombing on April 15, 2013, officials launched a manhunt through Boston and its suburbs for the suspects in the bombing that killed three and injured more than 260. Those days of chaos included the shooting of Collier, 27, who was seated in his police car at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus. Officials have been trying to trace the murder weapon, a Ruger 9mm pistol, whose identifying number was defaced.
Stephen Silva, 21, a friend of Tsarnaev, made an initial appearance in federal court Tuesday on charges related to heroin trafficking and possession of a handgun with an obliterated serial number.
In May, the Los Angeles Times reported that investigators were able to eventually read the serial number of the gun used to kill Collier, even though attempts had been made to obliterate it. Authorities traced the gun’s original purchase to a store near Portland, Maine, and to two people with alleged criminal ties. It is still unclear how the weapon may have gotten to the Tsarnaev brothers in Massachusetts.
Local media reports indicate that investigators are looking at what role, if any, Silva played. The indictment, which includes the gun charge does not specifically mention the Collier shooting, but officials privately say they are investigating, according to media reports.
Christina Sterling, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Boston, told the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday that she could not comment on whether there was a link between Tsarnaev and the gun charge against Silva. Silva is being held pending a court appearance scheduled for Aug. 6, she said.
Most of the charges against Silva relate to conspiracy to distribute heroin and cite six dates last month when he allegedly possessed and attempted to sell the drug in Medford, Mass.
One charge, however, focuses on Silva’s alleged possession of a firearm with an obliterated serial number in Cambridge in February 2013, two months before the bombing, according to the indictment.
According to federal documents, Silva “knowingly received and possessed a firearm, to wit, a Ruger model P95 9mm pistol, which had the importer’s and manufacturer’s serial number removed, obliterated, and altered and had previously been shipped and transported in interstate and foreign commerce.”
Federal investigators have said that Tsarnaev and his older brother, Tamerlan, were on the run the night of April 18, 2013, after the FBI published photos of them as the bombing suspects.
The Tsarnaevs were armed with five improvised explosive devices, a Ruger P95 semiautomatic pistol, ammunition, a machete and a hunting knife. On that night, the brothers fatally shot Collier and attempted to steal his service weapon, police say.
Tamerlan was killed hours later, in the early morning of April 19, during a shootout with police in suburban Watertown. The Ruger pistol was recovered at the scene.
Dzhokhar escaped but was soon found, wounded and hiding, in a boat in a backyard in Watertown. He has pleaded not guilty to charges including the use of a weapon of mass destruction and is scheduled for trial in November. He faces the possibility of the death penalty if convicted
Silva's attorney, Jonathan Shapiro, told reporters Tuesday evening that he had just received the case so he couldn’t comment.
“According to news reports, law-enforcement officials say it is the same weapon that was used … in the MIT officer Sean Collier shooting. However, this has not been charged in the indictment,” he said. Shapiro said in a statement that he was in the process of meeting with his client and reviewing evidence in the case.
Silva is a friend of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and the pair attended Cambridge Rindge and Latin School and the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth together, Silva said in court on Tuesday.
Silva’s twin brother was also close friends with three UMass Dartmouth friends of Tsarnaev: Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov, who are charged in federal court with interfering with the bombing investigation, and Robel Phillipos, who is charged with lying to investigators.
Tazhayakov was convicted Monday of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice in connection with items taken from Tsarnaev’s dorm room on April 18, 2013.
Kadyrbayev is scheduled to go to trial in early September, and Phillipos’ trial is slated for late September.
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