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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Tale of the Tsarnaev Brothers\' Carjacking Victim

In an interview published in The Boston Globe, a 26-year-old Chinese man describes his harrowing 90 minutes with the Tsarnaev brothers after they commandeered his car on the night they were trying to flee the police.

It is the most extensive version of events yet of how the older brother forced his way into the Mercedes-Benz of the man identified as a graduate student and entrepreneur. Then it recounts what the victim, called Danny in the story because he did not want his full name used, heard and saw before he managed to escape, alert the police and let them know they could trace the vehicle because he had left his iPhone behind.

Boston Globe reporter Eric Moskowitz, describes how Danny was essentially at the wheel of his own kidnapping for a good part of the time; of how he controlled his fear during the “many moments in their mental chess match” and ultimately how he executed his own escape from the brothers.

The story of that night unfolds like a Tarantino movie, bursts of harrowing action laced with dark humor and dialogue absurd for its ordinariness, reminders of just how young the men in the car were. Girls, credit limits for students, the marvels of the Mercedes-Benz ML 350 and the iPhone­ 5, whether anyone still listens to CDs - all were discussed by the two 26-year-olds and the 19-year-old driving around on a Thursday night.

Danny described 90 harrowing minutes, first with the younger brother following in a second car, then with both brothers in the Mercedes, where they openly discussed driving to New York, though Danny could not make out if they were planning another attack. Throughout the ordeal, he did as they asked while silently analyzing every threatened command, every overheard snatch of dialogue for clues about where and when they might kill him.

A New Hampshire television station, WMUR-TV, also interviewed the man and published his story, earlier this week.

But The Globe's interview goes into more detail, like the use by the police of Danny's iPhone to track the car after he had escaped, and Tamerlan Tsarnaev's use of an English-to-Chinese language translation app to intercept messages to Danny from a friend wondering where he was.

There were also poignant moments of insight into the state of mind of a captive contemplating that his death might come at any moment:

“Death is so close to me,” Danny recalled thinking. His life had until that moment seemed ascendant, from a province in Central China to graduate school at Northeastern University to a Kendall Square start-up.

“I don't want to die,” he thought. “I have a lot of dreams that haven't come true yet.”

Mr. Moskowitz, The Globe reporter, spoke to CNN about the story and described him as having “the perfect combination of innocence and poise and calm.”