Mass. ACLU wants answers in FBI killing of bombing suspect’s friend

Ibragim Todashev was killed during questioning about the Tsarnaev brothers. Credit: Orange County Corrections Department
Ibragim Todashev was killed during questioning about the Tsarnaev brothers. Credit: Orange County Corrections Department

The Massachusetts ACLU today called on state officials to launch an independent investigation into the FBI shooting death of Ibragim Todashev, a Chechen immigrant who was killed May 22 during a joint interrogation by FBI officials and local law enforcement officers from Massachusetts and Florida.

In a letter to Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, the ACLU urges the state Civil Rights Division to investigate the role of Massachusetts State Police in the shooting. The ACLU of Florida also issued a request to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to look into the role of Orlando police officers in the killing.

Two Massachusetts state troopers, along with Orlando police officers, were present with FBI officers during the interrogation of Todashev, 27, at his Orlando home.

One week after the slaying, Todashev’s father called for the agents who shot his son to be tried. Abdulbaki Todashev bitterly questioned the agents’ reasoning at a news conference in Moscow, saying his son was unarmed when he was shot seven times. He said he suspected his son might have been killed to keep him silent.

According to the ACLU, there are conflicting reports as to whether the Massachusetts troopers were in the room at the time of the shooting and whether their purpose at the interrogation was to investigate the Boston Marathon bombings, a 2011 triple-homicide in Waltham, or something else. The role of the Orlando police officers is even more unclear, according to the ACLU.

Notwithstanding the involvement of state personnel in questioning Todashev, and an earlier call by the Council on American-Islamic Relations for an independent investigation into the shooting death, public reports indicate that the only investigation into Todashev’s shooting is being led by the FBI.

The ACLU contends that the FBI’s approach “has fostered widespread public distrust.”

Immediately after the shooting, the FBI released a statement claiming that Todashev had initiated “a violent confrontation,” and reports cited anonymous law enforcement officials who made statements in support of that claim.

However the ACLU said that subsequent statements have offered contradictory reports.

“Initially, it was reported that either an FBI agent or another law enforcement official shot Todashev after he attacked an FBI agent with a knife or other sharp object,” the agency said in a statement. “Then new stories emerged, asserting that Todashev lunged at the FBI agent with a metal pole or broomstick, or that Todashev overturned a table, or that he was actually unarmed.”

“A person was shot and killed at the hands of law enforcement in Florida. That alone should require Florida officials to investigate, and explain to the public what happened,” said Howard Simon, ACLU of Florida executive director.

“Florida officials are simply deferring to the FBI, allowing the FBI to investigate itself, but it is difficult to accept the FBI’s honesty in this matter. The FBI has offered completely incompatible explanations, they have failed to explain how these inconsistent stories found their way into newspaper accounts of the shootings, and have not offered any clarifying comment about what really happened,” Simon said. “Due to the widely varying explanations that have surfaced about the shooting and the involvement of Massachusetts and Florida law enforcement, officials in both states should conduct their own investigations.”

The ACLU maintains that public skepticism in the FBI’s ability to investigate itself was heightened when The New York Times reported on June 19 that public records obtained through litigation showed that between 1993 and 2011, F.B.I. agents fatally shot an estimated 70 “subjects” and wounded about 80 others, but that FBI internal shooting investigations deemed every one of those episodes to be “justified.”

“Recent disclosures in The New York Times show that FBI shooting investigations, even when carried out with ostensible oversight of both the Justice Department’s inspector general and the Civil Rights Division, virtually always clear the agency of wrong-doing,” said Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts. “Secrecy surrounding the FBI’s investigation of the Todashev shooting has deepened the public’s mistrust.”

The FBI has allegedly “gagged the medical examiner from divulging the cause of death,” according to the agency, and the federal government has taken steps to detain and press for the speedy deportation of a potential witness in the investigation of the shooting, and the FBI’s final report may be classified.

“An independent investigation is necessary to maintain public confidence in law enforcement and get to the bottom of the events surrounding Todashev’s death,” said Rose.

“Since 2001, the number of local law enforcement officers assigned to the JTTF has more than quadrupled,” said Rose. “Yet the citizens of the various states who pay their salaries have no idea how they are supervised or even what, precisely, they are doing. It’s time to impose some accountability on local law enforcement who are assigned to FBI-JTTF operations in general.”

Follow Morgan Rousseau on Twitter: @MetroMorgan
Follow Metro Boston on Twitter: @MetroBOS


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Bloomberg launches $50 million anti-gun violence effort

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg plans to spend $50 million on a grassroots anti-gun violence network to challenge the National Rifle Association.

Local

East Village woman fights off rape attempt from…

An East Village woman fought off an attempted rapist that she woke to find standing on her bed over the weekend, police said.

International

Nearly 300 missing after South Korean ferry capsizes

Almost 300 people were missing after a ferry capsized off South Korea Wednesday, in what could be the country's biggest maritime disaster in over 20 years.

Local

Police look for man suspected of threatening Muslim…

Police seek man suspected of calling a teen Muslim girl a "terrorist" and spitting on her multiple times while on a Queens bus.

The Word

Jenny McCarthy and Donnie Wahlberg are engaged

If Donnie Wahlberg wants to get vaccinated against anything, he should do it soon: he and Jenny McCarthy are engaged, she just announced on "The View."

Television

TV watch list, Wednesday, April 16: 'The Americans,'…

'The Americans' Philip and Elizabeth face "painful turns" in their missions. Maybe next week they'll have a nice easy mission with no moral ambiguity? Probably…

Movies

Curtain raiser: The Tribeca Film Festival arrives this…

The Tribeca Film Festival begins its two-week run in Lower Manhattan on Thursday, boasting dozens and dozens of films of all stripes.

Movies

Review: 'Bears' is a cute Disney doc about…

Disney's latest nature doc, "Bears," doesn't completely shy away from the fact that its subjects would devour you (or eachother) if they had the chance.

NHL

Islanders back to rebuilding mode after disappointing season

One season after qualifying for the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time since 2006-07, the Islanders finished 2013-14 with a 34-37-11 record.

NFL

Jets confident despite Chris Johnson leaving with no…

Jets fans clamored for a playmaker on offense all offseason. It looked like they were going to land that player on Tuesday when Chris Johnson…

NBA

Knicks, Nets rivalry never materialized despite national attention

When the NBA schedule was released, the league anticipated an intense rivalry between the Nets and Knicks with all four games slated for national TV.

NBA

NBA Power Rankings: Are the Spurs frauds? Could…

NBA Power Rankings: Are the Spurs frauds? Could the Mavericks surprise?

Wellbeing

Could a facelift give you the edge at…

It's not just women lining up for procedures.

Home

Steal home decorating tips from Nattystyle blogger Natalie…

Despite the towering ceilings and enviable exposed brick, it’s easy to see how Natalie Decleve’s apartment could be considered a challenge. Perched above the streets…

Home

How to plant a garden in the city

Small on space but big on gardening? You can still have that welcoming oasis of fresh air with an urban garden. Peter Smith, owner of…

Style

Personalize your massage at a private practice

CityTouch customizes spa treatments to meet client's needs.