We Profiled the Saudi Marathon 'Suspect'

Amy Davidson: There's no excuse for the way this man was treated

By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff

Posted Apr 17, 2013 10:56 AM CDT

(Newser) – When a badly injured 20-year-old Saudi Arabian student was seen running from the site of the Boston Marathon explosions, a bystander tackled him because he looked suspicious. He was questioned by police; his apartment was searched; his roommate was intimidatingly interrogated for five hours and hounded by reporters. Why? He was running; so were a lot of scared people. He smelled like explosives; maybe that's because a bomb had just torn into him. He said he thought there would be a second bomb; that's logical, since a second attack often targets first responders. He asked if anyone was dead; many other survivors wanted to know the same. And, of course, "he was from Saudi Arabia, which is around where the logic stops," writes Amy Davidson in the New Yorker.

"Was it just the way he looked, or did he, in the chaos, maybe call for God with a name that someone found strange?" Davidson wonders. One thing is certain: The media were quick to refer to him as a suspect and start tossing around theories about his involvement. It wasn't until yesterday afternoon that reports started referring to him as a witness who was, as one official put it, "at the wrong place at the wrong time." In the aftermath of the bombing, President Obama referred to Americans as selfless, compassionate, unafraid. "And yet, when there was so much to fear that we were so brave about, there was panic about a wounded man barely out of his teens who needed help," Davidson writes. The perpetrator could be anyone—an American, even—but even if it turns out to be a Saudi, "It still won’t mean that this Saudi man can be treated the way he was. ... It is at these moments that we need to be most careful, not least." Click for Davidson's full column.

US flags hang from a barricade as Massachusetts National Guard members keep watch of Boylston Street near the Boston Marathon bomb site, April 16, 2013.
US flags hang from a barricade as Massachusetts National Guard members keep watch of Boylston Street near the Boston Marathon bomb site, April 16, 2013.   (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
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