A Chechen immigrant shot dead in Florida after a confrontation with an FBI agent had ties to one of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects, and was being questioned at the time of the shooting.
Ibragim Todashev’s Chechen roots and mixed martial arts background mirror that of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the Boston bombing suspect killed in a shootout with police last month. The two also had lived in the Boston area.
Todashev, 27, was shot at his Orlando home during a meeting with the agent and two Massachusetts state troopers, authorities said. The agent was taken to a hospital with injuries that were not life-threatening.
Law enforcement officials said Todashev had lunged at the FBI agent with a knife. However, two of those officials said later it was no longer clear what had happened.
The FBI gave no details on why it was interested in Todashev except to say that he was being questioned as part of the Boston investigation. However, two officials said he had implicated himself as having been involved in a 2011 triple-killing in a Boston suburb that authorities believe may have been connected to Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the 26-year-old Boston bombing suspect killed in a shootout with police days after the April 15 terrorist attack.
Todashev lived in nearby Watertown, Massachusetts last year.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s younger brother, Dzhokhar, survived the shootout with police and is now charged with carrying out the attack that killed three people and wounded more than 260 in Boston. He is also charged in the murder of an MIT police officer days later.
Several of Todashev’s former roommates who were questioned by the FBI said he knew Tamerlan Tsarnaev, an aspiring boxer, from mixed martial arts fighting in Boston and that the FBI was asking about him.
“He’s a regular guy, nothing wrong,” Saeed Dunkaev said of Todashev.
Todashev had lived on and off with other Chechens in the Orlando suburb of Kissimmee and had moved to Orlando more recently, friends said.
Investigators have been trying to establish the scope of the plot. In addition, authorities in Massachusetts said they would investigate whether Tamerlan Tsarnaev had any connection to the unsolved 2011 deaths in the Boston suburb of Waltham, where three men were found in an apartment, their throats slit and marijuana sprinkled over their bodies. One of the victims was a boxer and a friend of Tsarnaev’s.
Two officials who were briefed on the investigation said Todashev made statements, while he was being interviewed by the FBI and Massachusetts state police, implicating himself as having been involved in the 2011 Waltham slayings.
Police records suggest Todashev had a hot temper, with arrests in a road rage incident and, more recently, in a fight over a parking space.
Muslin Chapkhanov, another former roommate, said Todashev knew the older Tsarnaev brother. Todashev “was living in Boston and I think he trained with him,” Chapkhanov said.
Former roommate Khusen Taramov said the FBI was asking questions about a conversation Todashev had with the older bombing suspect a month before the Boston Marathon attack.
The ex-roommate said Todashev told him of his previous conversations with investigators and that he was completely forthcoming.
“He told them everything,” Taramov said. “He told everything he knew...I don’t know why that (the shooting) happened. It’s crazy.”
Taramov said Todashev was afraid before yesterday’s interview as well.
“That’s what he asked me before he pretty much died,” Taramov said. “He asked me, ’If something happens can you go out and tell all the truth. What exactly happened.”’
Like Todashev, the Tsarnaev brothers 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 Boston bombing in retaliation for the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
An FBI team was dispatched from Washington to review the shooting, standard procedure in such cases.
Todashev was arrested earlier this month on a charge of aggravated battery after getting into a fight over a parking spot with two men – a father and son - at an Orlando shopping mall. The son was taken to hospital with a split lip and several teeth knocked out, according to a sheriff’s report. Todashev claimed self-defence.
Todashev was released on bail after his May 4 arrest. He was also arrested by Boston police in 2010 after a road rage incident.