To one San Diego political expert, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev appears to be more like the troubled teens who opened fire at Columbine than a member of a terrorist cell.
Tsarnaev is the subject of a massive manhunt in and around the city of Boston for his alleged role in two bombings that killed 3 people and injured 176 at the city's marathon.
More than 1 million residents have been told to shelter in place while thousands of law enforcement officers searched door-to-door for the teenager who evaded authorities Thursday night.
San Diego State University Professor Emeritus of Political Science Dipak Gupta, an expert in ethnic conflict, doesn’t believe Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19 or his 26-year-old brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev are part of a terrorist cell or had a conscience anger toward the political system.
“It was more likely, at this point, that they had personal problems fitting in and they used Chechen revolution or rebellion and the repression that was suffered and also Islam just as a tool, as an excuse for what they did,” Gupta theorized.
Video showing the brothers carrying backpacks among the crowd near the Boston Marathon finish line was released Thursday when FBI officials identified the pair as the prime suspects in the attack.
Then, overnight Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed in a shootout with police.
The teenager’s father spoke from Russia denying Dzhokhar, who was registered at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, had any role in the violence.
Other family members expressed disbelief that the brothers, who had lived near Boston and had been in the U.S. for about a decade, could have been part of the bombings.
However, Ruslan Tsarni said he’s "ashamed" of his nephews and urged Dzhokhar to turn himself in.
When Tsarni was asked what might have provoked the bombings, he said, "Being losers, hatred to those who were able to settle themselves."
NBC News reports the militant group responsible for the Chechen insurgency also denied Tsarnaev had any connection with its organization.
Without having access to information available to federal investigators, Gupta said it’s difficult to know with any certainty what motivated the brothers to begin such a violent crime spree.
“It seems like they were disgruntled, they probably couldn’t fit in the way they wanted to fit in,” he said comparing the two to the Columbine shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold.
“They happen to be Chechen, they happen to be Muslims but they are just like Dylan Klebold,” he told NBC 7 San Diego. Gupta said he has seen no evidence that authorities are connecting the two men to terrorist cells in Pakistan or other Al-Qaida strongholds.
Gupta said the timing of Tsarnaev’s move to the U.S. suggests he would have very little memory of the violence that provoked the seizure of a Moscow movie theater by Chechen rebels in 2002 and the 2004 attack on a school in Beslan, Russia that ended in 334 deaths.
The marathon was such a soft target that he believes the attack would not be highly regarded among groups that would perpetuate a similar violent attack.
“In the hierarchy of their evil doing, among the people, among the groups who would perpetrate those it would probably not be seen as the bravest of all acts,” he said.