FBI shooting after Boston bombing was justified, investigator says

MGN Online
Tuesday, March 25, 2014 - 8:45pm

The shooting death of Ibragim Todashev, an associate of the alleged mastermind of the Boston Marathon bombing who was killed in a scuffle with FBI agents, was justified, Florida's Ninth Circuit State Attorney Jeffrey L. Ashton said in an investigative report Tuesday.

As expected, the report concluded that there was no wrongdoing in the shooting of Todashev and that "the actions of the Special Agent of the FBI were justified in self-defense and in defense of another."

The finding, reported by CNN last week, concurs with an FBI internal review of the shooting, which supported the agent's account. It also matches what the Florida state attorney for Orange and Osceola counties found in his investigation.

"Based on the physical evidence -- primarily the various findings of the autopsy, coupled with the reports that we received and the lack of inconsistency -- the events seemed to have occurred the way the agents said that they occurred and that there was no basis to bring criminal charges, that it was a lawful use of deadly force," Richard I. Wallsh, executive director of the state attorney's office, told CNN.

Evidence reviewed includes photos of the agent showing his injuries, officials said.

The shooting occurred on May 22, 2013, as Massachusetts state troopers, accompanied by FBI agents, questioned Todashev, 27, in his apartment in an Orlando suburb, officials said.

The report cites FBI documents that said Todaschev was writing a confession to a triple murder when when he attacked, flipping the table he was writing on and striking an FBI agent in the head. Todaschev ran to the kitchen and was heard frantically grabbing items before reappearing in the doorway wielding a long metal handle of a mop or broom.

"There's a belief that maybe he was looking for a knife or another weapon," Wallsh said.

The report said Todashev took an attack stance with the pole and lunged violently at the agent, who fired three to four rounds. Todaschev went down on his knees momentarily before he "sprang" to his feet again. The agent fired another three to four rounds. Todaschev was hit seven times, with fatal shots to his head and his heart, according to the documents.

Massachusetts investigators were pursuing information about a grisly 2011 triple murder that they thought could have been tied to Todashev and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who allegedly carried out the deadly bombing in April 2013 with his younger brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed as he and his brother confronted police in the days after the bombing. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was later arrested and jailed. He's awaiting trial.

Last week, the Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which called for an investigation into Todashev's shooting, said it was conducting its own investigation of his death.

"Certainly, the FBI's failure to prosecute a single agent in its history for shooting a suspect does not help its credibility," the council said in a statement. "Our concern however is not only regarding whether the agent was justified at the time he pulled the trigger, which was the focus of the state and federal investigation, but about the pattern of civil rights abuse that occurred before, during, and after the killing of Ibragim Todashev."

Todashev's family has disputed that he posed any threat to the law enforcement officers and agents in his apartment.

"My son was definitely unarmed, because he never had a gun," his father, Abdulbaki Todashev, told CNN in Moscow in a June 2013 interview. "He couldn't attack them or fight them; he couldn't do anything because even two men could easily handle him."

U.S. law enforcement officials said Todashev made statements implicating himself and Tamerlan Tsarnaev in the 2011 killings.

The FBI had interviewed Todashev before about the marathon bombing because he was a friend who, like Tamerlan Tsarnaev, trained in martial arts. He was cooperative, and the FBI didn't consider him to be involved.

Still, Todashev's shooting has raised questions about the FBI's handling of the matter, because any evidence he could have provided is now lost.

"We, in particular, were only looking in fairness to Mr. Todashev and his family, and in fairness to the officers involved, to try to determine whether this particular incident was justified or not," Wallsh said.

According to the investigative report, the agents knew of Todashev's skills in mixed martial arts and his criminal history, which included acts of violence. The suspect refused to meet agents and state troopers at a police station, insisting instead that they come to his Florida apartment. During the nearly five-hour meeting, the suspect's demeanor changed while discussing and eventually confessing to his involvement in the triple slaying in Waltham, Massachusetts, the report said.

After Todashev asked to use the bathroom, one of the law enforcement officers removed a large, Samurai-type sword mounted on the wall near the kitchen, the report said. Concerned about his changing demeanor, one trooper texted another trooper and FBI agent: "Be on guard, He (Todashev) is in a vulnerable position to do something bad. Be on guard now. I see him looking around at times."

Moments later, Todashev attacked.

The report said Todashev "struck the FBI Agent in the head with a coffee table and then armed himself near the front door of the address. As he then re-engaged the FBI Agent and Trooper One, they both perceived Mr. Todashev's movements towards them as being potentially life threatening."

Todashev "armed himself with a red broom handle" and charged at the officers, the report said.

"The FBI Agent engaged the impending threat twice, by discharging his issued handgun a total of seven (7) times during two volleys of gunfire."

The use of deadly force by the agent was "reasonable and justified, and therefore, lawful," the report concluded.

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