Ibragim Todashev was being interrogated in his Orlando, Fla., home by the FBI and Massachusetts police when he was killed early in the morning of May 22. Now his family and friends want an independent investigation of how Todashev, an acquaintance of the man accused of organizing the bombing of the Boston Marathon, died at the hands of authorities.
Initially the FBI said that Todashev, 27, was shot to death when a “violent confrontation was initiated by the individual.” His family and supporters say he was unarmed when he was shot seven times, including once in the head.
Todashev’s father, Abdulbaki, said at a Moscow news conference Thursday that he wanted an independent investigation of his son’s death. He told reporters that photographs of his son’s bullet wounds suggest that he was “executed” by the FBI.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times after his news conference, Todashev said it appeared that his son had been shot by multiple agents from both the front and back.
“The shot in the back of the head indicates that they were shooting to finish him off,” he said. “My son was interrogated for eight hours by four or five FBI agents and I will never believe he could be in a position to attack any of them. In the very least between the four of them they could have subdued him physically instead of riddling him with bullets.”
The death while in the custody of law enforcement officials raises questions, Hassan Shibly, executive director of the Tampa, Fla., chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. The civil rights group agrees with the family that an independent investigation is needed.
“We want to make sure his rights were not violated and we want to make sure excessive force wasn’t used against him,” Shibly said by telephone.
The FBI has stated that the incident is under investigating by a shooting incident review group, which includes members of the FBI and the Department of Justice.
“While this internal review process is occurring, we cannot comment regarding investigative details,” the FBI said in a statement emailed to reporters.
The agency has rejected any other investigation, as sought by the family.
“The FBI takes very seriously any shooting incidents involving our agents and as such we have an effective, time-tested process for addressing them internally. The review process is thorough and objective and conducted as expeditiously as possible under the circumstances,” the agency stated.
Todashev was an acquaintance of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the alleged organizer of the Boston Marathon bombing on April 15. Two explosions near the finish line along Boylston Street killed three people and injured hundreds. Tsarnaev, 27, was killed days later in a shootout with police after he and his brother Dzhokhar allegedly had killed a guard at MIT, carjacked a vehicle and then fled to the suburb of Watertown, Mass.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was captured about 20 hours later, hiding in a boat in a backyard in Watertown. Dzhokhar is being held in a federal prison hospital awaiting trial on charges that include using a weapon of mass destruction.
After the bombings, authorities first questioned Todashev who, like Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was a Muslim of Chechen heritage and a martial arts fighter. Todashev moved to Orlando, Fla., after living in Massachusetts for several years.
After the bombing interview, Todashev was questioned again as officials asked about a triple killing on Sept. 11, 2011, in Waltham, Mass. On the night he was shot, Todashev was “primarily” being questioned about those slayings, federal law enforcement sources told the Los Angeles Times’ Washington bureau last week. Officials suspected that Todashev and Tsarnaev had a role in the deaths of three men in Waltham, whose throats were cut.
Shibly, of the Islamic relations council, said his group was gathering expenditure receipts that showed that Todashev was traveling in Atlanta with his wife when law enforcement officials say the Waltham killings took place. Shibly said those records will be made public soon.
“Our issue is that if he [Todashev], is accused of a triple murder, go ahead an arrest him,” Shibly said. “We have an excellent judicial system, so go ahead and arrest him.”
Shibly said his group’s sources say that Todashev was unarmed on May 22. On Wednesday, the Washington Post reported that two unnamed officials had told the newspaper that Todashev was unarmed when he was shot.
What happened during the interrogation remains at the center of the investigation.
Shibly dismissed news reports based on sources who said that Todashev wielded a knife or sword, or that he lunged at an agent, overturning a table as he attempted to grab a gun. Law enforcement officers were in charge of the interrogation, Shilby said, and would have searched Todashev. The sword was just a decoration on the wall, he said.
“We don’t think the situation was handled very well,” Shibly said. “Law enforcement was in control of the environment and they interrogated him for four to five hours and he is dead.
“We’re not accusing them of anything, just asking questions to make sure our law enforcement officers are abiding to the highest standards,” he said.
Todashev’s father, who is an official in the mayor’s office of Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, said he was in Moscow to visit the U.S. Embassy and get a visa to travel to the United States so he could get his son’s body and take it home for burial.
Maxim Shevchenko, a Russian journalist and television anchor who conducted the news conference with Todashev, said the photographs of Ibragim Todashev’s body were taken at a Muslim mortuary in Orlando by a friend of the slain man, Khusen Taramov, and emailed to the father.
Loiko reported from Moscow and Muskal from Los Angeles