Tuesday, March 25, 2014
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Fearing imminent arrest in a triple slaying, Ibragim Todashev started acting suspiciously. His mood, once cooperative with investigators, became agitated. His eyes darted around his small apartment, as if he were looking for a weapon or a way out.
As Todashev wrote out a statement about his role in the 2011 slayings in Waltham, Mass., a state trooper sent an ominous text message: "Be on guard, he is in vulnerable position to do something bad. Be on guard now."
Moments later, Todashev, a friend of one of the Boston marathon bombing suspects, flipped a coffee table in the air, knocking down an FBI agent in the room and causing a gash on his head. Todashev then grabbed a broomstick or mop handle and charged toward the Massachusetts trooper, but the FBI agent shot Todashev several times, killing him, according to federal and state reports released Tuesday that cleared the agent of any charges.
In the Florida report, prosecutor Jeff Ashton noted Todashev's experience as a mixed martial arts fighter.
"The one common thread among all was the observation that he was, at his core, a fearless fighter," Ashton said in a letter to FBI Director James Comey. "Perhaps on this occasion, he simply reverted to that basic aspect of his personality and chose to go down fighting."
Separately, the Justice Department filed its own report, echoing the Florida findings. "To emphasize, these prosecutorial decisions were made independent of the FBI," bureau spokesman Mike Kortan said.
The shooting happened May 22, about a month after the April 15 marathon bombings. Investigators were looking into the background of bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who was killed four days after the marathon in a shootout with police, when they learned of his friend, Todashev. Both were Chechen and trained together in Boston. Tsarnaev was a heavyweight boxer.
It wasn't long before authorities focused on whether the men had any involvement in the Waltham killings. In that case, three men were found in an apartment with their necks slit and their bodies reportedly covered with marijuana. One of the victims was a boxer and Tsarnaev's friend.
Friends of the men have said they presumed the killings were drug-related, but police never confirmed that and the investigation is ongoing.
Federal authorities have said in court filings that Todashev also implicated Tsarnaev in the slayings, but the Justice Department report said the details of the confession were not being released publicly at the request of Massachusetts prosecutors.
Investigators had questioned Todashev several times in the weeks before he was killed and they knew what he was capable of. They had watched videos of his MMA fights and recognized his quick temper, in part because of a previous road rage episode, according to the reports.
On the day of the shooting, they had questioned him for almost five hours. One of the Massachusetts troopers told investigators that Todashev's mood changed right before he was to sign the statement.
Todashev asked to go to the bathroom and then asked for more cigarettes even though he seemed to have plenty in his pack, raising worries that he was trying to minimize the number of law enforcement officers in room, the trooper told investigators. On the trip back from bathroom, the trooper became more worried because Todashev appeared to be purposely walking slowly. As a precaution, the trooper grabbed a samurai sword hanging on a wall and hid it in the kitchen.
"I was more and more concerned he might try to flee or attack us," the trooper told investigators.
After Todashev waived his Miranda rights, he started writing on a white legal pad.
"'Okay. I'm going to tell you I was involved in it,'" Todashev told the investigators, according to an FBI chronology cited in the Florida report.
One of the troopers stepped outside to call a prosecutor in Massachusetts, who was on his way into the office to draft an indictment based on what Todashev was telling investigators, whose names were redacted from the reports.
Todashev flipped the table, and he "moved incredibly quickly, almost like something in a movie," the trooper in the room told investigators. Todashev grabbed the handle, stood in a fighting position and "charged toward me as if he was going to impale me with the pole," the trooper said.
The FBI agent told investigators, "There was no doubt in my mind that Todashev intended to kill us both."
An autopsy report also released Tuesday showed Todashev was shot once in the head and six times in the torso.
Todashev's family has raised doubts about the account provided by law enforcement, saying that Todashev was recovering from knee surgery and was limping at the time he was killed.
Todashev's father accused the FBI of a cover up.
"Several armed FBI agents were questioning my son, then were suddenly frightened when he flipped over a table, and to protect themselves the FBI agents emptied nearly a whole clip into him?"Abdul-Baki Todashev told The Associated Press in Russia. "Who could believe this?"
Tsarnaev and his brother, Dzhokhar, have roots in the turbulent Russian regions of Dagestan and Chechnya, which have become recruiting grounds for Islamic extremists. Investigators have said the brothers carried out the bombings in retaliation for the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Dzhokhar awaits trial in the bombings.
Hassan Shibly, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Tampa, which is conducting its own investigation into the fatal shooting, said Ashton's investigative focus was narrow.
"It's very important that this isn't whether the agent was justified in shooting," Shibly said. "It's about the pattern of abuse that occurred before, during and after the questioning. That won't be covered in a criminal investigation."
Todashev's live-in girlfriend and other friends been deported since the shooting.
Eric Tucker in Washington and Musa Sadulayev in Grozny, Russia, contributed to this report.