A friend of one of the Boston marathon bombing suspects threatened an FBI agent and a Massachusetts state trooper with a long pole and was fatally shot by the agent just moments after he had agreed to give a statement about his involvement in a triple slaying, a Florida prosecutor said Tuesday.
State Attorney Jeff Ashton said in a report the agent was justified in shooting Ibragim Todashev, 27, last May. The officers were questioning Todashev about the 2011 slaying in Waltham, Mass., and he was about to write a statement when his mood went from cooperative to agitated, according to the report.
Todashev, a mixed martial arts fighter, flipped a coffee table in the air, knocking down the FBI agent and causing a bloody gash on the agent’s head. Todashev then ran past the two officers, into the kitchen and returned with a pole — a long metal handle of a broom or mop — that he pointed at the Massachusetts officer, the report said.
The FBI agent fired three or four shots at Todashev as he advanced on the trooper, and Todashev dropped to his knees but then lunged at the officer, and the FBI agent fired three or four more shots, the report said.
“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 U.S. Justice Department also concluded Tuesday that there was no basis for federal criminal charges against the FBI agent. The federal inquiry echoed the Florida report in saying that Todashev implicated himself in the triple-murder.
Federal authorities have said in court filings that Todashev also implicated Tsarnaev in the Waltham slayings, but the Justice Department report said the details of the confession were not being released publicly at the request of prosecutors in Massachusetts. The Justice Department report said both men shared an interest in mixed martial arts and were suspected in the Waltham murders.
In the Waltham 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 friend of Tsarnaev, who had befriended Todashev when Todashev lived in Boston.
In the Florida shooting, the FBI agent from Boston and two Massachusetts State Police officers had questioned Todashev at his apartment for almost five hours before the fatal shooting, the report said. The FBI had become interested in Todashev in the days after the Boston marathon bombing last April because he was friends with Tsarnaev. By then, Todashev also had become a “person of interest” in the Waltham slayings, according to the report, and FBI agents had questioned him several times in the weeks before he was killed.
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 concerned as they walked downstairs 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.
The trooper also sent a text message to the FBI agent and the second trooper: “Be on guard, he is in a vulnerable position to do something bad. Be on guard now. I see him looking around at time.”
After Todashev flipped the table, he “moved incredibly quickly, almost like something in a movie,” the trooper told investigators. Todashev grabbed the pole, stood in a fight position and “charged toward me as if he was going to impale me with the pole,” the trooper said.
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.
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 very 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.