BOSTON -- Even as Tamerlan Tsarnaev was restrained in an ambulance, taking his dying breaths, he was “combative,” according to a paramedic who tried treating him after a shootout with police in Watertown, Massachusetts, two years ago.
“He was yelling. He was loud,” paramedic Michael Sullivan testified during the trial of Tamerlan’s younger brother Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on Wednesday. “He resisted our attempts to treat him.”
Days earlier on April 15, 2013, the Tsarnaev brothers killed three people and wounded 264 others. On April 18, they fatally shot a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer.
Tamerlan, 26, perished soon after the struggle in the rear of an ambulance, described by Sullivan, from wounds inflicted during a shootout with police.
Dzhokhar has already been convicted of 30 charges related to the attacks. The trial has entered a stage where jurors will sentence him to either life without parole or execution.
To save him from death row, Dzhokhar’s attorneys have essentially argued their client was unable to resist the influence of the older brother who’d transformed into a violent jihadist.
Earlier, the defense called an FBI agent to read from a series of government reports saying that a Russian intelligence agency, the FSB, had warned the FBI about Tamerlan’s desire to fight alongside separatists in Chechnya. The Tsarnaevs are Chechens.
The reports, read by Sonya Petri, included an interview with a distant cousin living in Dagestan, another region in Russian, who said that Tamerlan had visited and sought an introduction to Islamic fighters.
Petri read from files that said that the FBI investigated Tamerlan in 2011 for terrorist connections, but found he had none.
The jury on Wednesday also heard about Dzhokhar’s own ambulance ride after being shot and arrested by police. The defense appeared to use it as an opportunity to show his loyalty to Tamerlan.
When Dzhokhar was loaded into an ambulance, he had gunshot wounds to his jaw and leg, one eye kept rolling back in his head and “his cheek looked a little deformed,” according to paramedic Laura Lee.
During that ride, though, “he asked where his brother was,” Lee testified. Another member of the emergency crew said he would "find out soon,” according to Lee’s recollection.
Delving deeper into Dzhokhar’s past, the defense called on a parade of three elementary- and middle-school teachers who gave rave review of their former pupil.
His third-grade teacher was the first on the stand. She said she knew him as a 9-year-old beginning the school year with limited English. Dzhokhar was born in Kyrgyzstan and lived in Russia before his parents settled in Cambridge.
“He was incredibly hard-working,” said Cathryn Charner-Laird, now the principal of the Cambridgeport School. She smiled when asked if she saw him in court today. “He always wanted to do the right thing.”
Dzhokhar no longer excelled academically when he attended UMass-Dartmouth, the college he attended before the marathon bombing, In the Fall 2012 semester, he earned three Fs and one B, according to a transcript shown by prosecutors earlier in the trial.
But he was still had a large group of friends. Court closed on Wednesday with a college friend shedding tears on the witness stand.
Alexa Guevara, now 21, got choked up as she testified that Dzhokhar complimented sketches she drew and encouraged her to go to art school.
“He told me I have talent and that I shouldn’t let it go to waste,” said Guevara as her voice quivered. “It made me feel really good, like someone believed in me.”
Defense attorney Miriam Conrad at one point asked “Why are you crying?”
“Because I really miss the person that I knew,” Guevara answered.
Guevara will return to the stand Thursday morning to be cross-examined by the prosecution.
This article has been updated to include Alexa Guevara's testimony.
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