FBI killing of man with ties to Tsarnaev: Self-defense or case of excessive force?

The circumstances surrounding the fatal shooting of Ibragim Todashev remain murky, and the FBI has little interest in revealing too much information as the suspect’s death might be a case of excessive force, associate law professor Sahar Aziz told RT.

So was there a knife?

According to the preliminary FBI account, Todashev, a
28-year-old Chechen immigrant living in Orlando, Florida, became
violent and lunged at an FBI special agent with a knife while being
questioned about his ties to alleged Boston Marathon bomber
Tamerlan Tsarnaev and an unsolved 2011 triple murder in the Boston
suburb of Waltham. The agent, reacting to an “imminent
threat,”
shot Todashev dead.

Ibragim Todashev is pictured in this undated booking photo courtesy of the Orange County Corrections Department. (AFP Photo)

Later in the day, FBI officials backed away from that version of
events, leaving no clear official account of what happened moments
before Todashev was killed on Wednesday.

Witnesses report hearing multiple shots that night, and while an
autopsy reportedly completed by Thursday, the report will not be
released until a criminal investigation into the event is
completed.

At the time of the shooting, up to half a dozen law-enforcers,
including two Massachusetts State Police troopers and an FBI agent
from the agency’s Boston division, were present at the condo not
far from Universal Studios.

The FBI claims that moments before Todashev “just went
crazy”
and attacked the agent, he had agreed to sign a
confession which would have implicated both him and Tamerlan in the
unsolved killings in which three male victims brutally had their
throats slit. The murders took place on September 11, 2011, the ten
year anniversary of the World Trade Center attack.

While law enforcement sources initially said Todashev stabbed the
agent with a knife, there was later “confusion” over what
object he actually used to attack his questioner, ABC news
reports.

“Definitely no one said that he had pulled a gun but there was
some media talk about whether he had pulled a knife, and then the
FBI retracted that and said we don’t know exactly what
happened,”
said Sahar Aziz, and Associate Law Professor at
Texas Wesleyan University.
 
“So there is definitely a question of whether shooting him was a
use of excessive force. Because even if, for example, he had
punched the officer, it could possibly be unreasonable or
unnecessary to shoot someone in defense of being punched. Usually
you are supposed to use commensurate force,”
she told RT.

‘He just wanted everything to be over’

The FBI first began surveillance and later questioned Todashev
several days after the April 15 Boston attack took place. From all
accounts, he had cooperated with investigators up until his
death.

Todashev had reportedly purchased a plane ticket before the
bombings occurred to return to his native Chechnya, but canceled
his trip at the FBI’s request.

“He had a ticket to New York. From there, he was going to
go home [to Chechnya],”
WESH Orlando quoted his friend and
roommate Kushen Taramov as saying. “[The FBI was] pushing him to
stay, saying, ‘we want to interview one last time.'”
Taramov
said Todashev canceled the ticket at the FBI’s insistence.

When news of the shooting first broke, Taramov said he and Todashev
had been interviewed by FBI agents for nearly three hours on
Tuesday in connection with the Boston Marathon bombings.

“(The FBI) took me and my friend, the suspect that got killed.
They were talking to us, both of us, right? And they said they need
him for a little more, for a couple more hours, and I left, and
they told me they’re going to bring him back. They never brought
him back.”

Taramov, who noted that Todashev had been interviewed on multiple
occasions following the Boston attack, denies law enforcement
accounts that his friend simply went crazy and attacked.

“He didn’t flip out,” Taramov, said. “I think
something went wrong there. I think they just shot him. 
He didn’t do anything. I know him. He just wanted
everything to be over.”

Todashev did have a history of violence. According to records from
the Orange County Sheriff Office, Todashev had been charged earlier
this month with aggravated battery for allegedly fighting with a
father and son over a parking space in a mall parking lot in
Kissimmee, Florida. Todashev said he acted in self-defense.

FBI personnel walk through the complex surrounding the apartment, where Ibragim Todashev, 27, was shot and killed by FBI, in Orlando, Florida, May 22, 2013. (Reuters / Phelan Ebenehack)

While living in Boston, he was also arrested in February 2010
after getting into a fight with strangers. One witness stated
Todashev “was clearly the aggressor,” according to police
reports.

However, his father, Abdulbaki Todashev, described his son as
“a very calm” man, saying his son would not become
aggressive without reason.

“Never in his life would he attack anyone unprovoked,”
the elder Todashev stressed.

Todashev’s estranged wife, Reniya Manukyan, said her husband was
cooperating with the FBI and had nothing to hide. “He wasn’t
involved. So he was not even nervous [to talk with the
FBI],”
local NBC affiliate News Channel 5 cites her as
saying.

Manukyan said their common Chechen roots and an interest in
mixed martial arts brought her husband into contact with Tsarnaev,
but “they weren’t friends or anything.” “He expected that
they were going to come and question him because they both come
from the same place from Chechnya,”
she explained.

She also denies her husband’s role in the 2011 triple homicide,
though she does confirm he traveled back to Boston in the summer of
2011. DNA from that crime scene is currently being tested and
compared with Todashev’s DNA.

Later, in an angry post on Vkontakte, Russia’s most popular
social network, Manukyan blasted the FBI with an expletive-strewn
post, claiming: Killing my husband Ibragim was another
[proof] that everything is a setup about Tsarnaev brothers as
well.

Many questions with no answers, yet

Early on Wednesday morning, officials at the FBI headquarter in
Washington dispatched a shooting-response unit to Florida to help
investigators determine what had occurred.

The following day, scores of FBI employees could be seen coming
and going from the condo where Todashev was killed.

In addition to the FBI’s review team, a separate Shooting
Incident Review Group committee will analyze the incident. The
independent committee, which includes up to 13 members of the FBI,
will evaluate whether use of force was justified. No new
information will likely surface until those investigations are
concluded.

But apart from the use of deadly force, several other questions
have been raised regarding the death of Todashev.

If Todashev had a history of violence, was being interviewed in
connection with a recent terrorist event, and was believed to have
played a role in a related triple homicide, why was he being
interviewed in his home at midnight and not at a law enforcement
facility?

How did a knife or other unidentified object come into his
possession during the course of the several hour interview?

If law enforcers are unwilling to state emphatically that the
object in question was even a knife, was lethal force necessary to
subdue him while vastly outnumbered by several agents?

Todashev had yet to be charged with a crime and had every right
to refuse being questioned without having a lawyer present. From
all accounts, he had been willing to cooperate with the FBI on
multiple occasions. He also chose not to return home to Chechnya
although he had already purchased tickets and no warrant had been
issued for his arrest. If he felt cornered or pressured into making
a confession, why would he attack half a dozen law enforcers rather
than ask for a lawyer?

And last but not least – was the final interrogation
videotaped?

“We know very little about what happened because the only
source of information is the FBI and presumably it’s not in their
self-interest to reveal too much information [since] there’s now an
investigation into his death because this could possibly be a case
of excessive force in violation of his constitutional rights,”

Sahar Aziz argues.
 
Whatever happened that night, Taramov recalled an ominous
conversation he had with Todashev just hours before his death.

“We had a feeling, worst case scenario something like that was
going to happen…He felt inside he was going to get shot,”

Taramov said.

“I told him, ‘everything is going to be fine, don’t worry about
it.’ He said, ‘I have a really bad feeling.'”

This article originally appeared on: RT