MOSCOW — Abdulbaki Todashev speaks quietly but confidently, without a tremor in his voice, without a shadow of emotion. The father of 12 — six boys and six girls — is preparing to bury his eldest son, Ibragim Todashev, shot to death by an FBI agent during questioning about his ties to purported Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
Although the FBI says the younger Todashev, 27, attacked an agent during the interview Wednesday in Orlando, Fla., the father won’t accept that.
“I absolutely refuse to believe my son could have attacked a policeman, to be quite correct, several policemen,” he said Thursday in a telephone interview with The Times from Grozny, the capital of Chechnya. The FBI, he insisted, “killed him for nothing.”
Federal officials said Todashev, who met Tsarnaev through their mutual interest in mixed martial arts, was being questioned primarily about an unsolved triple homicide on Sept. 11, 2011, in Waltham, Mass. Officials believe he and Tsarnaev may have had a role in the killings.
Abdulbaki Todashev said a friend of his son, Khusen Taramov, was with him late Tuesday when the FBI went to Todashev’s house.
“At first, for three hours, they interviewed Ibragim together with Khusen and then they let Khusen go,” the father said, recounting what he said Taramov told him the next day. “They told Khusen to go home but he refused, saying he would stay with Ibragim through the questioning, but the FBI insisted he should go.”
According to the father, Ibragim Todashev was studying English at Grozny University when he got a chance to go to the United States in an exchange program in 2008.
“He loved it there from Day One,” the father said. “He would call me and tell me how everybody was into sports, what great sports gyms they had and what wonderful possibilities he had for the mixed fighting and boxing he loved so much.
“Then when he told me that he loved it in America and wanted to stay,” the father said, “I didn’t mind.”
He said his son hit it off with Tsarnaev because of their common Chechen heritage. Although Tsarnaev never lived in the restive Russian republic, his family’s roots were there and there are indications that Tsarnaev felt a kinship with the Muslim separatists who want the region to break free from Russia.
“We are a small people who endured so many hardships to survive in our difficult history that it is only natural for us to stick together, especially abroad,” said Todashev, 53, who is head of the municipal services department in Grozny. “But they were not close friends, otherwise I would have found out about their friendship before the Boston thing.”
Tsarnaev died in a shootout with police four days after the Boston Marathon bombings. His younger brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was later arrested and charged with setting the explosives that killed three people and injured more than 260.
The senior Todashev said his son found it “improbable” that the Tsarnaev brothers were involved in the marathon bombings. He described Ibragim as a moderate Muslim who went to a mosque regularly and was “very content with life in America.”
Despite the father’s description of his son, Ibragim Todashev’s life in the United States was not entirely serene. Two weeks ago, he was arrested and charged with aggravated battery with great bodily harm after he got into a fight with a man over a parking spot at an outlet mall in Orlando.
Abdulbaki Todashev said he had been looking forward to seeing his son.
“Two months before this, my son got a green card and he bought a ticket to come and see us, but after the bombing he canceled it and then bought a new one,” the father said.
“He was supposed to come to Russia May 24. We were preparing a party for him, and now my oldest son will never come home.”