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Report: FBI agent justified in killing of Boston bombing suspect's friend
- Article by: MIKE SCHNEIDER
- Associated Press
- March 26, 2014 - 5:58 AM
ORLANDO, Fla. — A Chechen mixed-martial-arts fighter grew increasingly agitated as he wrote a confession about his role in a 2011 triple slaying that got renewed attention after the Boston Marathon bombing, flipping a coffee table at an FBI agent and charging a Massachusetts State Police trooper with a pole before the agent shot him dead, according to an investigative report.
The report released by State Attorney Jeff Ashton's office in Orlando on Tuesday cleared the FBI agent of any criminal charges in the fatal shooting of 27-year-old Ibragim Todashev last May. Separately, the Justice Department filed its own report Tuesday, echoing the Florida findings.
Todashev was shot after being questioned in his Orlando, Fla., apartment for nearly five hours by the FBI agents and two troopers about the 2011 triple murder in Waltham, Mass. The FBI learned of Todashev during their investigation into his former sparring buddy, Boston marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
It wasn't long before authorities focused on whether the men had any involvement in the Waltham killings. In that case, three men were found in an apartment with their necks slit and their bodies reportedly covered with marijuana. One of the victims was a boxer and Tsarnaev's friend.
Friends of the men have said they presumed the killings were drug-related, but police never confirmed that and the investigation is ongoing.
Federal authorities have said in court filings that Todashev also implicated Tsarnaev in the slayings, but the Justice Department report said the details of the confession were not being released publicly at the request of Massachusetts prosecutors.
Investigators had questioned Todashev several times in the weeks before he was killed and they knew what he was capable of. They had watched videos of his MMA fights and recognized his quick temper, in part because of a previous road rage episode, according to the reports.
The FBI agent and two Massachusetts troopers felt they were making progress during their late-night questioning of Todashev, and one trooper texted to a prosecutor in Massachusetts that Todashev had admitted to his role in the slayings. "Who's your daddy?" the trooper joked in a text.
One of the Massachusetts troopers told investigators that Todashev's mood changed right before he was to write the statement.
Todashev asked to go to the bathroom and then asked for more cigarettes even though he seemed to have plenty in his pack, raising worries that he was trying to minimize the number of law enforcement officers in the room, the trooper told investigators. On the trip back from the bathroom, the trooper became more worried because Todashev appeared to be purposely walking slowly. As a precaution, the trooper grabbed a samurai sword hanging on a wall and hid it in the kitchen.
He then sent a text to his fellow investigators: "Be on guard, he is in vulnerable position to do something bad. Be on guard now."
After Todashev waived his Miranda rights, he started writing on a white legal pad.
"'Okay. I'm going to tell you I was involved in it,'" Todashev told the investigators, according to an FBI chronology cited in the Florida report.
One of the troopers stepped outside to call a prosecutor in Massachusetts, who was on his way into the office to draft an indictment based on what Todashev was telling investigators, whose names were redacted from the reports.
Todashev flipped the table, which knocked down the FBI agent and left a bloody gash on his head. Todashev "moved incredibly quickly, almost like something in a movie," the trooper in the room told investigators. Todashev grabbed the broom handle from the kitchen, stood in a fighting position and "charged toward me as if he was going to impale me with the pole," the trooper said.
The FBI agent fired seven shots, later telling investigators, "There was no doubt in my mind that Todashev intended to kill us both."
An autopsy report also released Tuesday showed Todashev was shot once in the head and six times in the torso.
Todashev's family has raised doubts about the account provided by law enforcement, saying Todashev was recovering from knee surgery and was limping at the time he was killed.
Todashev's father accused the FBI of a cover-up.
"Several armed FBI agents were questioning my son, then were suddenly frightened when he flipped over a table, and to protect themselves the FBI agents emptied nearly a whole clip into him?" Abdul-Baki Todashev told The Associated Press in Russia. "Who could believe this?"
But Richard Wallsh, the executive director of the State Attorney's Office, said in an interview that Todashev appeared to have recovered from the surgery based on a video captured by FBI agents while they were following Todashev in the weeks prior to his fatal shooting. The FBI video captures Todashev fighting two men in a dispute over a parking spot at an Orlando shopping center. The FBI had to declassify the video in order for investigators from the State Attorney's Office to view it.
Tsarnaev and his brother, Dzhokhar, have roots in the turbulent Russian regions of Dagestan and Chechnya, which have become recruiting grounds for Islamic extremists. Investigators have said the brothers carried out the bombings in retaliation for the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Dzhokhar awaits trial in the bombings.
Hassan Shibly, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Tampa, which is conducting its own investigation into the fatal shooting, said Ashton's investigative focus was narrow.
"It's very important that this isn't whether the agent was justified in shooting," Shibly said. "It's about the pattern of abuse that occurred before, during and after the questioning. That won't be covered in a criminal investigation."
Todashev's live-in girlfriend and other friends have been deported since the shooting.
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