ORLANDO, FL — An unarmed man was shot to death in his own apartment by the FBI after a grueling 8-hour interrogation. The man was Ibragim Todashev, a Chechen immigrant being investigated because he was an acquaintance of one of the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing. He was ultimately shot 6 times in the chest and once in the back of the head, which his father describes as an “execution” performed to “silence” his son. Months later, the Feds still have not offered any cogent explanations of the the incident or why their agents altered their story multiple times.
Ibragim Todashev’s death came during the third of three separate interrogations by the FBI in the spring of 2013, according to his father, Abdulbaki Todashev. The first time the FBI visited Ibragim Todashev it was to question him about his relationship with Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of the suspects accused in the Boston Marathon bombings. His second encounter with the FBI dealt with a triple murder in Waltham, Massachusetts, that the police believed Tsarnaev was involved with. The third, and final, interview took place in Orlando, Florida, at the home of Todashev and included both FBI and Massachusetts State Police.
The final interrogation took place on on May 22, 2013. It took on a different focus and tone than the previous two interrogations. Earlier interviews focused on his relationship to the slain Boston bombing suspect, Tamerlan Tsarvaev — though officials stated that Todashev was not suspected of involvement in the April 15 bombing. This time, Todashev faced a Boston FBI agent and two Massachusetts State Police troopers, one of which was assigned to the Middlesex district attorney’s office tasked with investigating a triple-homicide unrelated to the Boston bombing incident that took place in the Boston suburb of Waltham on September 11, 2011.
His widow, Reniya Manukyan, says that until mid-2013, he had never been questioned about the murders that had occurred 1.5 years earlier. During the final interrogation, law enforcement officials grilled Todashev for 8 hours in his own apartment, without a lawyer present. The situation was highly unconventional.
The interrogators suspected that Tsarnaev carried out the Waltham murders, and have said that Todashev implicated Tsarnaev before being shot and killed. Law enforcement sources claim that at about 12:15 in the morning, Todashev sat down at a table brought into the room by agents to write a formal confession regarding the Waltham murders. He never wrote a word, but instead overturned the table and lunged at the interrogator, forcing the confrontation and justifying the FBI agent to shoot Todashev 7 times.
According to a statement released by the FBI the day of the killing:
“The agent, two Massachusetts State Police troopers, and other law enforcement personnel were interviewing an individual in connection with the Boston Marathon bombing investigation when a violent confrontation was initiated by the individual. During the confrontation, the individual was killed and the agent sustained non-life threatening injuries.”
Todashev was shot 6 times in the chest and once in the back of the head, autopsy photos revealed.
The FBI’s narrative contradicted itself regarding whether Todashev was armed. Some accounts stated Todashev was armed with a knife, others said a metal pole or broomstick, and another alleged a samurai sword.
A New York Times article claims that injuries sustained by the agent to his face were due to the table being thrown at him and knocking him down. The WBUR sources claim that the state trooper witnessed Todashev “coming at him with ‘a pipe’ and believed Todashev would have split his skull if the agent had not shot first.”
These allegations posed a problem given that Todashev was found without a weapon. Two law enforcement officers, whose names have not been disclosed to the public, told the Washington Post that Ibragim Todashev was unarmed when he was shot and killed by the FBI.
The fact that the FBI cannot get its story straight has only served to cast doubt on everything that has been said so far regarding Todashev’s relationship to the Tsarnaevs and the Boston bombings. Alexander Abad-Santos, author at The Wire, impressively documented each of the conflicting reports and their original sources.
During the exceedingly lengthy interrogation of Ibragim Todashev, his friend, Khusen Taramov, was also questioned by the FBI separately outside of Todashev’s home. Taramov says that Todashev wanted him to remain in his house to be a witness, but the FBI quickly separated the two. “Should something happen to me, call my parents,” were Todashev’s last words to his friend. Todashev’s father claims that Taramov was “sent off” after being interviewed for three hours and told to return later due to the ongoing questioning of Todashev, noting that “the interrogation would take a long time.” Hours later when Taramov returned, local police and an ambulance were already responding to the scene of Todashev’s death.
The FBI and Department of Justice are conducting an internal investigation into the shooting, but the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the ACLU have called for independent inquiries into the shooting due to the government’s secrecy surrounding the case. Both requests have been rejected by law enforcement, saying that it would be inappropriate.
In October, the Boston Globe reported that the Florida medical examiner’s office said that Todashev’s autopsy report was completed and ready for release on July 8th of 2013. The following Tuesday, the 16th , the medical examiner’s office told reporters that the FBI had ordered the office not to release the autopsy report because of the federal agency’s ongoing internal investigation into Todashev’s death.
“(The FBI) took me and my friend, the suspect that got killed. They were talking to us, both of us, right? And they said they need him for a little more, for a couple more hours, and I left, and they told me they’re going to bring him back.
They never brought him back.” — Khusen Taramov
The secrecy surrounding the shooting and the nature of the internal investigation has done little to help answer lingering questions while creating many more. In a newly detailed account of the interrogation, David Boeri of WBUR Boston shines unprecedented light on the events leading up to Ibragim Todashev’s death. His sources say that at some point during the long night of questioning in the cramped, oppressively hot condominium, Todashev cracked and blamed Tsarnaev for the Waltham murders.
“I was there, but I didn’t do the murders,” Todashev allegedly said, according to those who killed him.
One irregularity noted in Boeri’s article is the strange phone call made by the state trooper assigned to the Middlesex D.A. The trooper apparently left the room to place a call to officials back in Middlesex, described as “no ordinary call at midnight.” This left only the FBI agent and the other state trooper in the room with Todashev. According to the articles sources, Todashev was able to leave the room where the remaining state trooper observed him hide what he believed could have been a potential weapon. This begs the question of why such an important interrogation took place in such an unsecured location.
“They tortured a man for eight hours with no attorney, no witnesses, nobody. We can only guess what was going on there, until there is an official investigation,” the elder Todashev said.
“He did not believe the Tsarnaevs did this. He said they had been set up. These were his exact words.”
The latest account of the chaos in the interrogation room claims that the FBI agent fired seven bullets in two bursts. The first cluster of three shots put Todashev on the ground momentarily. The second barrage came after sources say Todashev unbelievably rose from the ground after being hit three times and again went after the agent. The agent fired four more shots, riddling Todashev’s body with a total of seven bullets. Todashev’s father, however, believes that autopsy photos prove that one of those bullets was fired into the back of his son’s head.
Zaurbek Sadakhanov, a Chechen Lawyer present at the May 30th, 2013, news conference in Moscow, Russia, and which included Abdulbaki Todashev, offered a pointed litany of unanswered questions lingering around the suspicious death: “Why was he interrogated three times without a lawyer? Why no recording? Why seven shots? And why should I believe their version? Why do American policemen believe they can do whatever they want?”
Former Los Angeles police officer turned investigative reporter Mike Ruppert gave his opinion of the encounter to RT.com identifying two irregularities with the official story being reported in the media. First, he notes that standard operating procedures do not seem to have been even remotely followed, and second, that it appears to him that the FBI is involved in setting the situation up.
“There’s an escalation-of-force scale which was obviously not followed in this case”, he said, referring to the officers’ decision to draw firearms. “But my second huge problem with the law enforcement story is he (Todashev) was supposed to be signing a confession to a triple murder…I don’t care even if you are the FBI – which doesn’t have a good reputation – you have somebody who’s about to sign a confession, you have him in a jail house, in a secure setting, and the police officers around him are not armed because he’s in a secure setting. For the FBI, this was, at best, horribly mishandled. But it sounds to me very much like they went there with the intent to provoke him and stage a shooting,” Ruppert went on, recounting a similar shooting from decades ago.
Why would the FBI interview a suspect whom they believed to be violent, connected to alleged terrorists, and an accessory to murder in his home at midnight rather than within the security of a police station of FBI office with an attorney or prosecutor present?
Perhaps the answer lies in what he may have known regarding the Boston bombings: “He did not believe the Tsarnaev’s did this,” Todashev’s father said. “He said they had been set up. These were his exact words.”
“A reasonable and prudent investigator before conducting an accusatory interrogation would ensure his or her safety and the safety of his subject in question,” said Tom Shamshak, a police trainer, instructor in investigations at Boston University and former Massachusetts police chief.
For Todashev’s sake — or anyone’s for that matter — he should not have spoken a word to the FBI without a lawyer being present. This provides him not only with legal consultation, but a witness when being confronted by those who might try to do him harm.
But was he allowed a lawyer? The FBI, in its spree of interrogations, rounded up another of Todashev’s acquaintances, Ashurmamad Miraliev. He says he was interrogated for six hours only about associations with Todashev despite repeatedly requesting his right to an attorney, CAIR-Florida said. The FBI agents allegedly responded, “That is not happening.”
While there is no shortage of varied, often conflicting accounts of what happened at the home of Ibragim Todashev on the night of May 22, 2013, there remains a short supply of credible, objective witnesses to the event. In the absence of a video recording of the interrogation, there are no disinterested, third-party witnesses left to give an evenhanded account of the events leading up to the death of Todashev. It is not unreasonable to believe that his family and friends may never know the whole truth about why he was killed in a tiny room on a sweltering night in Orlando.
More worrisome still is the precedent an event like this creates for law enforcement to conduct “extrajudicial executions” and outright murder without fear of reprisal. Ibragim Todashev’s death should sound an alarm for foreigners and citizens alike who fear the loss of our constitutional rights and breakdown of the rule of law in police-state America. Earlier fears of assassinations taking place in within the borders of the United States seem to have now been confirmed with the state-sponsored termination of Ibragim Todashev due to his alleged ties to the accused Boston bombers. To paraphrase former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, perhaps he should have had more responsible friends.
Graphic pictures of the aftermath of Ibragim Todashev’s encounter with American law enforcement can be viewed online: here. Some readers may find the photos unsettling.
UPDATE (3/21/2014) – Shooting “Justified”
The Associated Press has confirmed that the FBI agent who killed shot Ibragim Todashev has been cleared of wrongdoing. State Attorney Jeff Ashton won’t bring charges against the agent.
This adds to the FBI’s remarkable track record of remaining faultless in incidences of violence. According to a recent New York Times study, between 1993-2011 the FBI has cleared its agents in every agent-involved shooting incident, deeming 70 fatal shootings and 80 non-fatal shootings justifiable.