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Tue March 25, 2014
Florida, Feds Say FBI Shooting Of Bombing Suspect's Friend Justified
Two investigations released within an hour of one another Tuesday found no wrongdoing in the fatal shooting of Ibragim Todashev.
The 27-year-old mixed martial arts fighter was killed in Orlando last May while being questioned by both the FBI and Massachusetts State Police about his ties to Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev and their alleged involvement in a 2011 triple murder in Waltham.
The reports, conducted separately by the office of Florida State Attorney Jeffrey Ashton and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, both conclude that the FBI agent who shot Todashev justifiably acted in self-defense and that no civil rights laws were violated by law enforcement.
Among the details revealed in the more than 1,000 pages released:
- Massachusetts investigators “strongly suspected” Todashev’s involvement in the 2011 Waltham triple murder of Brendan Mess, Erik Weissman and Raphael Teken. On the night of May 21, during his interview with an FBI agent and two Massachusetts State Police troopers, Todashev is said to have confessed to his role in the Waltham murders. Both audio and video of the four-hour interview was recorded, but none of the shooting. A state trooper is said to have recorded Todashev’s verbal confession.
- According to the reports, as Todashev started writing a statement detailing his role in the Waltham killings, he “struck the FBI agent with the coffee table he was writing on and ran to the kitchen area. The agent, who sustained a serious head wound drew his handgun. Todashev ignored commands to show his hands, armed himself with an approximately five-foot long, hollow, metal utility pole, and charged back toward the assisting trooper and the agent.” The FBI agent fired two volleys, hitting Todashev with seven shots.
- At 12:03am, as Todashev was writing his statement, a Massachusetts state trooper sent the following text message to other investigators: “Be on guard now. I see him looking around. He is in vulnerable position to do something bad. Be on guard now. I see him looking around.”
- The last sentence that Todashev wrote in his statement is said to have specifically related to actions that acknowledged his role in the Waltham murders.
- Investigators were also said to be aware of Todashev’s previous arrests and “knew from his gym associates that he was a tenacious mixed martial arts fighter” and had watched YouTube videos of his fights. Todashev’s’ fighting skills and temper were referenced in an earlier interview WGBH News did with John Allan, owner of Wai Kru, an MMA gym where Todashev first met Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Allan said Todashev was very much a “hot head” who often had physical altercations at the gym or in public (At around 31:30 in the video below, Allan goes into detail about Todashev's temper.):
- On May 21, after Todashev was contacted for a follow-up interview with Massachusetts investigators, he refused to go to a police station for the interview but agreed to meet investigators at his apartment.
- After initially interviewing Todashev earlier that same May last year, Massachusetts investigators returned to Orlando a second time after learning that Todashev had booked a flight to Russia that was scheduled to depart on May 24. Investigators returned to interview Todashev “personally about the homicides before he left the country.” Todashev canceled his flight on May 21. In the Florida State Attorney’s report, an FBI special agent said they believe this was “due to the fact that Todashev’s girlfriend was arrested on immigration charges as well as charges he was facing from a violent confrontation in a parking lot in Orange County [Florida].”
The Justice Department report also touched on alleged civil rights violations of Todashev associates who were incarcerated or deported during the investigation. The report concludes “speculation that these persons were deported to conceal information is unfounded” and that the deportations that took place were related to issues concerning immigration status.
Hassan Shibly, a Todashev family attorney and executive director of the Florida Council on American Islamic Relations, said last week that the treatment of Todashev’s associates has been a grave concern to him and other civil rights advocates.
“Only last week, we documented that the FBI made sure that [Todashev’s] closest friends were either forcibly removed from the country or prohibited from returning to the country,” Shibly said.
Shibly added that he is looking forward to reviewing the reports and plans to compare it with an independent investigation he and other lawyers are conducting. That investigation is ongoing.
- Read the Flordia State Attorney's report on the death of Ibragim Todashev here.
- Read the U.S. Justice Civil Rights Department's report here.
James Edwards can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @thejamesedwards.
Carol Rose, the executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts, gave her initial reaction to the reports on Greater Boston: