Of all the false reports disseminated last night about the Boston bombing suspects, none was more viral than the claim that missing Brown University student Sunil Tripathi was “Suspect No. 2.” Tripathi was last seen leaving his Providence apartment at 1:33 a.m. on March 16, according to an ABC News item from March 30, and the FBI later became involved in the search for him.
The rumor that he was a suspect in the bombings seems to have begun on Reddit, though it quickly made its way to Twitter, then maybe (or maybe not) to a police scanner, and then back to Twitter. (For more on how Tripathi was falsely misidentified, read this investigation from the Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal.) Of course, now we know that 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, not the 22-year-old Tripathi, was the man captured in security footage wearing a white baseball cap at the marathon. But in the intervening hours, about a dozen news vans descended on Tripathi’s family home, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, and comments on the Facebook page devoted to finding Tripathi became so hostile that his family decided to take the page down. “It was a very ugly night,” Tripathi’s sister Sangeeta told the Inquirer.
Tripathi’s family has now reactivated the Facebook page called Help Us Find Sunil Tripathi, and they’ve added a poignant new image and message. Beneath a quadtych of pictures of family members displaying notes to their brother and son written on the palms of their hands, the family posted the following caption:
These recent hours have been incredibly painful for our family as we continue to search for Sunil. Sunny, we love you so much.
Please lend your hand. Share your love. Help us heal. Find Sunil.
Thank you for supporting us and helping us find Sunil.
Posted at 2:07 p.m. EDT, the photo has already garnered more than 600 “Likes,” and dozens of comments expressing condolence. “So hope Sunny finds his way home, must have been terrible to go through what you had to endure last night,” reads one typical comment. “I am so sorry that you had to go through something so traumatic.”