Reports Close Todashev Case, But Questions Remain

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The American Civil Liberties Union wants an investigation of the Florida investigation, in which an FBI agent was cleared of any wrongdoing in the shooting death of a friend of alleged Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

Two reports out Tuesday — one by the Florida state attorney, another by the U.S. Department of Justice — both said the FBI agent in question was acting in self-defense when he shot and killed Ibragim Todashev last year during questioning in Orlando, Fla.

WBUR's David Boeri joined WBUR's Morning Edition from Florida to discuss the findings.

Bob Oakes: The Florida report is a long-involved report, 161 pages, with even more pages of supplements. Tell us what you've found.

Ibragim Todashev, in a May 4 police mugshot provided by the Orange County Corrections Department in Orlando, Fla. (AP)
Ibragim Todashev, in an Orange County booking photo (AP)

David Boeri: [Florida State Attorney Jeffrey Ashton] has embraced the FBI agent and the actions of the police with certainty here, but what is most stunning to me ... [is that] the one person he didn't interview was the FBI agent himself. Here's Ashton Tuesday:

I was very insistent that I wanted my investigator to personally interview at least one of the two witnesses that were there — the Massachusetts state trooper, because I wanted it to be recorded and on the record.

So he interviews the state trooper who was in the room at the time [of the shooting] — as well as the other trooper who was outside the home at the time — but the shooter is the FBI agent, and he didn't want to be interviewed. Even the FBI didn't record an interview with him. So all that Ashton got was a statement. Here's Ashton again:

There was a point at which I believe there was a negotiation, perhaps, the agent sitting down with my investigator and the DOJ people for an unrecorded interview and I basically said, if it's not going to be recorded, then I don't want our investigator participating in it.

So what's the reaction to all of this?

Tom Nolan — who is a professor of criminal justice at the State University of New York at Plattsburgh, who has been talking to me and analyzing some of the actions over the last year — he says that not interviewing the shooter in that situation is just off the boards. Here he is:

It reminds me of the bizarro world. I mean, this would have been any prosecutor in the United States, this would have been the first order of business. If we have somebody involved in a death investigation, let's get that person in and let's conduct an interview. And if it leads into a direction where there might be some criminal responsibility, we change that to an interrogation and we've got it videotaped and audiotaped. We don't have any of that here.

A text message sent by a state trooper, warning to "be on guard now," sent two minutes before Todashev was shot and killed. (Ashton report)
A text message sent by a state trooper, warning to "be on guard now," sent two minutes before Todashev was shot and killed. (Ashton report)

There's other reaction as well. The Council on American Islamic Relations has been very involved in this case from the start. Here's the council's Hassan Shibly:

How can we learn from the situation? How can we ensure that this kind of situation is never repeated? It's not good for anyone when a suspect ends up dead, especially a suspect who the government claims has a lot of very important information for many people.

Todashev was indeed the only eyewitness to that unsolved triple homicide in Waltham. We found out that he described what happened there and admitted his role in it. He didn't think that "blank," who we believe is Tsarnaev, was going to kill them. So he was there. By all accounts, this was an important guy to keep alive, and at the end of it, he was dead.

In addition to the report from Ashton in Florida, the FBI and the Justice Department also announced that they too had cleared the FBI agent in the shooting death of Todashev. All of this happened at once, Tuesday. What do you make of the timing of this?

We've been waiting for 10 months for this FBI report to make an accounting of what happened. They've made no statements since the week of the shooting. And suddenly, when the state attorney makes his report, we get word that the FBI has cleared its agent. And what do we have as a result of this investigation? No more than the FBI statement way back when.

So more questions to be answered, perhaps, as time goes on.

-- Here's Ashton's full investigation (via Scribd):

-- Here's Ashton's full letter to the FBI (via Scribd):

Related WBUR Investigation:

This segment aired on March 26, 2014.

Headshot of David Boeri

David Boeri Senior Reporter
Now retired, David Boeri was a senior reporter at WBUR.



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