Sunil Tripathi Is Dead, and the Media's False Boston ID Isn't Helping His Family

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After a police scanner blip led journalists on social media to connect their 22-year-old son to the Boston Marathon bombings, a terrible month for a Pennsylvania family just reached the ultimate level of awful: a body found in the waters near a city park in Providence, Rhode Island, is that of the missing Brown University student Sunil Tripathi, the Rhode Island medical examiner's office made official today. "The medical examiner says that the identification was confirmed through dental records and the cause of the death is still yet to be determined," reports ABC Philadelphia, putting proof to police speculation yesterday — and putting a sad end to a week when no almost no speculation could be trusted. 

Late last Thursday night, in the midst of a wild and still confusing shootout in Watertown, Massachusetts, Tripathi's name catapulted from Ivy League sob story to Reddit speculation to national news. As The Atlantic's Alexis Madrigal pointed out, it's unclear if Sunil's name was ever mentioned on Boston police scanners that night, but several journalists with many followers on Twitter quickly ran with the name and connected it with the as-yet-unnamed bombing suspects. "Wow Reddit was right about the missing Brown student per the police scanner," BuzzFeed's Andrew Kaczynski tweeted. "Suspect identified as Sunil Tripathi."  And Michelle Malkin site still hasn't removed Tripathi's name from the headline on her story. Now the only solace from what was already a weeks-long ordeal may be that, well, some journalists feel sorry and that police scanners might not be public anymore.

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The family confirmed Sunil's death Thursday in a statement on the same Facebook page that had been so voraciously attacked after the untruth about his Boston connection spread — and they are trying to stay positive after the hate:

On April 23, our beloved Sunil was discovered in the waters off India Point Park in Providence, Rhode Island. 

As we carry indescribable grief, we also feel incredible gratitude. To each one of you–from our hometown to many distant lands–we extend our thanks for the words of encouragement, for your thoughts, for your hands, for your prayers, and for the love you have so generously shared. 

Your compassionate spirit is felt by Sunil and by all of us.

This last month has changed our lives forever, and we hope it will change yours too. 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.

Tripathi's story first came to national prominence two weeks after his March 16 disappearance, with this ABC News report on the expanding search for the Brown student. 


This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.