Reports Make Ibragim Todashev's Death at the Hands of FBI Clearer (and Weirder)
The FBI agent who shot and killed Ibragim Todashev during an interrogation in Florida was cleared of criminal responsibility for the death in a pair of reports on Tuesday
The FBI agent who shot and killed murder suspect Ibragim Todashev during an interrogation in Florida was cleared of criminal responsibility for the death in a pair of reports on Tuesday. But the reports — one from the DOJ's Civil Rights division, and another from a Florida prosecutor — don't seem to answer all of the questions circulating from the death of Todashev, who faced questioning in connection to an unsolved 2011 triple homicide. Investigators believed that homicide had a connection to Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of two brothers behind the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombings.
Things got even more complicated late on Tuesday, when Boston Magazine published an image of what could be the unfinished confession letter Todashev wrote by hand during the interview where he was killed. The image corresponds with that of a redacted photo released in the Florida prosecutor's report, although the authenticity is not verified. According to Boston Magazine's transcription, the letter reads:
My name is IBRAGIM TODASHEV
I wanna tell the story about the robbery
me and Tam did in Waltham in September
of 2011. That was [?] by Tamerlan.
[?] [?] he [?] to me to rob
the drug dealers. We went to their
house we got in there and Tam had
a gun he pointed it [?] the guy that
opened the door for us [?]
we went upstairs into the house
[?] 3 guys in there [?] we put them
on the ground and then we [?]
[?] taped their hands up
The existence of the written confession, it should be noted, is firmly in the "what we know" category about Todashev's death, even before the release of today's reports. We know law enforcement officers went to his Florida home several months after the Boston bombings to question the Chechen about the 2011 triple murder and his relationship to Tsarnaev. After several hours of questioning, we know Todashev was ready to confess. What we didn't know is how the situation changed from Todashev's confessing his crime to his shooting death at the hands of an unnamed FBI agent.
That's in part because law enforcement officials speaking to the media have given conflicting accounts as to what happened next. Those conflicting reports included some questions as to whether the suspect was armed or not when an officer opened fire. Here's how the Department of Justice's 16-page report sums up the second half of the story, based on their investigation:
As Todashev began to write a statement detailing his role in the murder, he suddenly struck the FBI Agent with the coffee table he was writing on and ran to the kitchen area. The Agent, who sustained a serious head wound, drew his handgun. Todashev ignored commands to show his hands, armed himself with an approximately five-foot long, hollow, metal utility pole, and charged back toward the Assisting Trooper and the Agent. Other available evidence is consistent with the eye-witness law enforcement officers’ accounts that, fearing that Todashev intended to seriously injure or kill someone, the Agent fired two volleys, striking Todashev with seven shots causing Todashev’s death.
The Florida prosecutor's report, over 150 pages, contains a lot more detail, including written statements from the FBI agents involved. As the Boston Globe spotted, officers had already seen Todashev's "fighting videos on YouTube" (he was an MMA fighter and "had studied his criminal record." The FBI agent said in the report that "On a scale of one to 10, I believe Todashev was an eight as far as his inclination and ability for physical violence."
The report details Todashev's increasing agitation as he accepts the fact that he'll probably go to jail after confessing to a role in the 2011 triple murder. So, as the Globe asks, why didn't investigators handcuff the suspect, or arrest him on the spot once he confessed? Carol Rose, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Massachusetts, noted to the paper that "there are many ways that police can take precautions to protect themselves without ending up with a person who is dead.” The ACLU continues to call for an independent investigation of the shooting.
As the Guardian notes, video and audio recordings of the interrogation ceased when Todashev agreed to write down a confession, so all we have to rely on are the statements from those in the room.The Florida report details a quickly changing situation: “The coffee table suddenly [was] propelled into the air striking the Special Agent of the FBI in the back of the head," the report concludes, adding that Todashev went to another room in the apartment and returned "carrying a long pole of some sort." The FBI agent's statement describes his take just before he shot and killed the suspect:
“I shouted ‘show me your hands’ ... I continuously yelled for Todashev to show me his hands, but he did not comply....There was no doubt in my mind that Todashev intended to kill both of us.”
The DOJ report is available here. The Florida prosecutor's report is here.