Medical Examiners Confirm Death of Missing Brown Student Misidentified as Boston Bomber

Sunil Tripathi's family released a touching statement.

Photo Credit: Facebook / Help Us Find Sunil Tripathi

A Brown University student who had been missing since March 16 and was mistakenly identified as the Boston Marathon bomber last week was found dead in a Rhode Island river, medical officials confirmed to the Associated Press

Medical examiners identified Sunil Tripathi, 22, through dental records, but the cause of death has not been determined yet. 

Last week, amateur sleuths wrongly identified Sunil as the Bomber Marathon bomber on the social media site Reddit. As the Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal chronicled, Sunil’s name blew into the mainstream after Greg Hughes, who followed the Tripathi crowd sourcing, tweeted that he had heard the Brown student’s name on the Boston Police scanner. (Hughes’ Twitter account @ghughesca, has since been deactivated).

Soon, a Facebook group set up to find Sunil became bombarded with hateful messages, forcing his family to take the page down. As AP notes, Sunil’s name briefly surfaced onto Twitter’s top trends’ list.

"The last eighteen hours have generated tremendous and painful attention -- on social media platforms Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit, as well as from television media inquiries -- linking Sunil to the video stills released by the FBI yesterday afternoon," the Tripathi family said in a statement last week.

Reddit general manager Erik Martin released an apology Monday, pledging to “look at what happened and make sure that in the future we do everything we can to help and not hinder crisis situations.”

Immediately following confirmation of Sunil’s death, the Tripathi family set up a Sunil Tripathi memorial fund, announcing that, “As soon as we are able to, we will select organizations reflecting Sunil's spirit, particularly those focusing on mental health and environmental sustainability.” The family also posted this message:

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.

With love,
The Tripathi Family

UPDATE: An earlier version of this article ommited that Sunil Tripathi had been missing since March 16. It was not my intention to mislead, and I regret the omission. -Steven Hsieh

Steven Hsieh is an editorial assistant at AlterNet and writer based in Brooklyn. Follow him on Twitter @stevenjhsieh.