ORLANDO, Fla. -- The FBI special agent who shot and killed a friend of one of the alleged Boston Marathon bombers was cleared Tuesday of any criminal wrongdoing after he told investigators he feared for his life when Ibragim Todashev hit him in the head with a coffee table and lunged at him with a long pole.
In a letter to FBI Director James Comey, Jeffrey L. Ashton, the Florida state attorney in Orlando where Todashev was shot, said he based his decision not to prosecute the special agent largely on eyewitness accounts from Massachusetts State Police troopers who witnessed much of the brawl in Todashev's condo in May.
"The actions of the special agent of the FBI were justified in self defense and in defense of another," Ashton concluded. He added, "There is no evidence in this instance indicating the use of poor judgment by the agent involved."
Todashev, 27, was a friend of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the older brother implicated in the bombing in April. The special agent and Massachusetts police were also interviewing Todashev about reports that Tsarnaev may also have been involved in an earlier, triple homicide in the Boston area.
According to Ashton, the late night interview erupted violently when Todashev, a skilled martial arts fighter from Chechnya, believed he was going to be arrested. At that point, Todashev flippped over a coffee table and injured the special agent in the back of the head, then ran to the kitchen and came at him with a long pole, holding it "in the style of a javelin."
The special agent fired repeatedly. Three to four shots came first, twisting Todashev in the room and dropping him to his knees. But he sprung up toward the state officers at a "low-angled lunge" and the special agent fired three to four more shots "which incapacitated Mr. Todashev and resulted in his death."
"There is no evidence in this instance that the Special Agent of the FBI committed intentional misconduct or acted with any degree of malice," Ashton said in the letter. Ashton's office also released hundreds of pages of attachments regarding the shooting, providing the most comprehensive look yet at a shooting that had been wrapped in mystery.
According to the letter, after more than four hours of questioning, Todashev admitted "some involvement" with the triple murder in which three men were found with their throats slashed and marijuana dumped on their bodies. He agreed to write a statement, the letter said.
Todashev's family is sure to chafe at the findings. Because of a recent knee surgery, Todashev was in no condition to attack investigators, his friends have said. His father, Abdulbaki, believes the FBI intentionally killed his son and has said he believes his son was hit a total of 13 times, some in the back. His attorneys have hired their own investigators, whose results they plan to release soon.
"They say that time is a doctor. Not in my case," the father told The Times this week. "Every morning I wake and every night I go to bed with this sense of gross injustice done to my son and which is still continuing to be done so long after his death at the hands of an FBI agent."
Serrano reported from Washington; Powers reported from Orlando