Sunil Tripathi, missing man falsely ID’d as Boston bombing suspect, found dead

Providence Journal | The Boston Globe

Sunil Tripathi’s body has been found, the Providence Journal reports. The Brown University student, who had been missing since March, was falsely identified as a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings last week by users on Twitter and on Reddit.

Rhode Island Health Department spokesperson Dara Chadwick confirmed the identification to Poynter in a phone call: “We can confirm that the young man found … is 22-year-old Sunil Tripathi,” Chadwick said. “It was confirmed through a forensic dental examination. … I don’t have cause of death at this time.”

“On April 23, our beloved Sunil was discovered in the waters off India Point Park in Providence, Rhode Island,” his family wrote on Facebook.

Take care of one another. Be gentle, be compassionate. Be open to letting someone in when it is you who is faltering. Lend your hand. We need it. The world needs it.

A tweet ID’ing Tripathi as a suspect rocketed around the Internet last week after the FBI released images of the suspects. The Atlantic chronicled the spread of misinformation, beginning with a tweet by a user named Greg Hughes.

Reporters from media outlets including Politico, BuzzFeed and Newsweek retweeted Tripathi’s name, Alexis Madrigal reported.

Tripathi’s parents “were hysterical” after the false ID, his sister Sangeeta told The Boston Globe’s Yvonne Abraham.

They froze the Facebook page they had launched for Sunil’s search and tried to avoid social media. They attempted a game of Scrabble. Sangeeta got 58 calls between 3 and 4 a.m. Some reporters left polite messages, but not all: “This is your one opportunity to save your brother’s life,” Sangeeta recalled one saying.

Reddit General Manager Erik Martin apologized for Reddit’s role in spreading misinformation about the manhunt: “Some of the activity on Reddit fueled online witch hunts and dangerous speculation which spiraled into very negative consequences for innocent parties,” he wrote.

Martin is scheduled to join a Poynter discussion today at 2 p.m. ET titled “How do citizens best participate in the gathering and distribution of news?”

Correction: This post originally misidentified Sangeeta Tripathi’s relationship to Sunil.

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  • dasd

  • Ingrid Ferris

    Reporters keep writing this story without talking about when he died. That makes the story misleading. Was he deceased before or after Reddit falsely named him?

  • Subodh

    I’m not sure what happned to Sunil Tripathi but even if this was a case of suicide, the matter should be investigated and culprit should be punished, who are responsible to publish this uncertain information, which lead to unrecoverable damage to the person and family.

  • Andy Sternberg

    thanks for being receptive and updating, Andrew. Good stuff!

  • Malcolm Lloyd

    How long has he been dead? If it’s been since before the bombings, no harm done. IMO anyway.

  • canardnoir

    As the media continues to rely upon the younger-and-younger writer-reporter, do we actually expect the institution to strive for greater accuracy, above the all-out effort to vail claim – “they broke the story”?

    The knew KSAs for so-called journalism not includes: 1) fastest tweet; and 2) most “likes”…, among other desired, shallow reporting traits.

    Facts must no longer delay the news cycle!

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Good criticism, Andy. We focused on getting confirmation, and I didn’t spend enough time on the headline. Thanks for your comments.

  • Paul Simon

    Headline seems accurate to me based on what is contained in the article.

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Thanks, just did.

  • Andy Sternberg

    now it does ;-)

    I was mostly just disappointed to see Poynter, of all places, use such bad taste in writing this headline. One might speculate that he committed suicide because… Reddit.

  • Melanie Townsend

    Sangeeta is Sunil’s sister, not his brother, please fix.

  • Stephanie Sprinkle

    No, it totally says, “Tripathi was reported missing on March 16.”

  • Andy Sternberg

    You failed to mention that Tripathi was reported missing March 16.

    Shouldn’t we accept Reddit’s mea culpa and clear Tripathi (and his surviving family’s name)?