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Dzhokhar Tsarnaev says he called brother to synchronize blasts

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.FBI via AP/file 2013

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev told federal agents in the days after his arrest that he and his older brother were the only ones who planned the Boston Marathon bombings, and he didn’t warn friends beforehand because he didn’t care if they got hurt, according to court records unsealed Monday.

In a statement to agents shortly after his arrest, Tsarnaev said he called his older brother before they set off the bombs “to try to synchronize the two detonations.” Tsarnaev set off his bomb about 13 seconds after his brother detonated his device.

Tsarnaev “stated that there were no other attacks planned, there were no unaccounted devices, and the only individuals involved in the attack planning and execution were [Dzhokhar] and [his brother] Tamerlan,” according to the documents, which included an FBI agent’s notes of interviews with Tsarnaev.


The records were unsealed in the case of Tsarnaev’s close friend, Robel Phillipos, who is appealing his three-year sentence for lying to federal agents about seeing two other friends remove evidence from Tsarnaev’s dormitory room after the bombing.

While the documents do not offer new theories about the bombings, they help provide insight into Tsarnaev’s state of mind before and after the attacks.

The statements were made during Tsarnaev’s interview with federal agents at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center on April 21 and 22 in 2013 – two days after he was captured while hiding in a boat in a Watertown backyard.

Tsarnaev told agents that he and his brother randomly selected the spots where they placed the bombs, and he did not know which one was closer to the Marathon finish line.

“No one helped them identify or select possible locations to attack,” an FBI agent wrote in interview notes.

Tsarnaev also reportedly said that he and Tamerlan Tsarnaev built the bombs at Tamerlan’s home in Cambridge, because “he had a roommate and little privacy” at his dorm room at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, according to the FBI agent’s notes.


Tsarnaev told the FBI agent “instructions [for the bomb] were available in a copy of Inspire magazine the two downloaded from the Internet,” the agent wrote, adding that Tsarnaev said the brothers used powder from fireworks they had bought a year earlier in New Hampshire to build the bombs. They paid $200 for the fireworks.

Inspire is an English-language online publication sponsored by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

During Tsarnaev’s trial, prosecutors showed that they had found bomb-making evidence in the Cambridge apartment. Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s wife, Katherine Russell, had also been living at the apartment, but she has not been charged.

Tsarnaev acknowledged that he contacted friends after they told him he looked like the suspect in the Marathon bombings, and he told them they could take his laptop and other items from his dorm room “as he did not expect to survive.”

The statement led two of his college friends, Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov, to take the computer and a backpack from his room. They were sentenced to six years and 3½ years, respectively, for obstructing an investigation.

Phillipos was convicted of lying to investigators about being at the dorm when Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov removed the items.

But Tsarnaev maintained that none of his friends were involved in planning the attacks, though he acknowledged that he and Kadyrbayev often discussed religion, “jihad, and the ways of the world,” according to the FBI notes. He was dismissive of Kadyrbayev and said the conversations were part of a broader discussion of religion.


Tsarnaev provided the statements without a lawyer present, and prosecutors agreed not to use them in his trial last year after his lawyers questioned whether the statements were legally admissible.

But the statements were included in a June 2014 filing in the case of Phillipos, who had sought to use them to show he had no connection to the bombing — part of his attempt to have the charges against him dismissed. A federal judge agreed to seal the records at that time.

One statement contained in the unsealed filing seemed to contradict information that was presented in court by Tsarnaev’s defense. During his trial, his lawyers sought to challenge the notion that Tsarnaev was the one who called his older brother just before the brothers set off the bombs, and instead suggested it was Tamerlan Tsarnaev who made the call.

But, according to the documents unsealed Monday, Tsarnaev acknowledged that he was the one who made the call.

A majority of his statements given at the hospital remain confidential. Tsarnaev’s defense and prosecutors sought to reseal some of the documents that were made public Monday, saying they were released in error, but a judge refused the request.

Both sides agreed Monday that dozens of other documents that were previously kept confidential in his case can be unsealed, and US District Judge George A. O’Toole Jr. is reviewing the agreement.


Some of those documents relate to jury selection, search warrants, and an investigation into a triple murder in Waltham in 2011. Tamerlan Tsarnaev was a suspect in those killings.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, now 22, was sentenced to death in June. He is appealing his sentence.

Milton J. Valencia can be reached at milton.valencia@globe.com.