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Why Did the FBI Kill an Unarmed Friend of Tamerlan Tsarnev?

Ibragim Todashev—a friend of the dead Boston Bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnev—was killed at his Orlando apartment on May 22nd after he was questioned in relation to a triple-murder he was suspected of committing with Tamerlan himself, back in 2011. Law...
May 30, 2013, 6:49pm

Ibragim Todashev.

On May 22nd, Ibragim Todashev died inside of his Orlando apartment after an FBI agent shot him six times. That agent, along with “other investigators,” was there to ask Ibragim about the unsolved, triple murder of three Massachusetts men in a “well-kept rental home.”  The killings occurred on the tenth anniversary of 9/11. All three men had their throats slashed, and their bodies were covered in weed. I’m not sure what the significance of the weed is, but that’s what happened.


The FBI suspected Ibragim, along with Tamerlan Tsarnev, the dead man accused of planning the Boston bombings, of being the murderers they were looking for. Tamerlan’s “former roommate” (or “best friend” depending on what you read) was one of the victims killed in the Massachusetts triple-murder. It is not clear if Tamerlan was questioned in connection to these murders when they occurred in 2011, but clearly he was not a credible person of interest at the time.

Last week, when the news first broke that Ibragim was killed by an FBI agent, the reasoning (according to a “law enforcement official” who spoke to the New York Times) was that he had pulled a “knife or a pipe or something” on the investigators who were in his home. Because he had aggressively pulled out a weapon that looked sort of like a blade and sort of like a pipe, the killing was in self-defense. According to that same law enforcement official, Ibragim turned violent immediately after he “admitted his role in the killings” in a way that also “implicated” Tamerlan Tsarnev. At that point, the official claims, Ibragim “went off the deep end.” To confuse things further, another agent was quoted as saying Ibragim reached for an investigator’s gun and that’s why he was shot, but did not mention anything about a pipe or a knife.

That was the sketchy story, built on conflicting information, up until Wednesday. A full week after Ibragim was killed the Washington Post broke the news that, according to “law enforcement officials,” Ibragim was unarmed at the time of his death. No knife, no pipe. One of the Post’s sources also allege that the other investigators left the room before the FBI agent murdered Ibragim, which would mean there weren’t actually any witnesses besides the shooter. And yet, the newest explanation of Ibragim’s (in the words of the FBI) “violent confrontation” with authorities is that he knocked over a table and lunged at the agent. That’s, according to the most recent explanation, when the gun went off and why the agent fired it. A new report from CNN published on Thursday cites a representative from the Council on American-Islamic Relations who is insiting that the only weapon-like object in Ibragim's home at the time was a dull, decorative sword with a broken handle.


So is this most recent anonymous, law enforcement source correct in saying Ibragim was not a lethal threat to the investigator at the time he was killed? If so, why was this man murdered for simply knocking over his own furniture in his own home and then jumping at a cop? Surely these law enforcement professionals can handle a situation like that without fatal gunfire. Ibragim’s supposed actions read like the behavior of a terrified and angry individual, which is understandable given the context of his meeting that day.

To make matters more perplexing, the FBI says Ibragim was “not suspected of involvement” in connection to the Boston Bombings, which makes the reasoning behind is killing more unclear. But even if he were implicated, the man would still have deserved some kind of fair trial.

If the story is now how it appears to be, and the FBI murdered Ibragim before he could properly go through the justice system for the triple-murder he allegedly committed with Tamerlan Tsarnev, this is not only an example of the police using excessive force to silence a suspect.  This is an example of how chunks of bad information—let’s call them lies—can be pushed into the public through dishonest and anonymous law enforcement sources, in order to obscure the story and silence the truth. By ostensibly inventing a narrative in which Ibragim threatened an FBI officer with his life, the FBI created a palatable motive for Ibragaim’s suddenly violent death. Now that the truth may finally be out, the bubble of media attention is smaller (it was tiny to begin with) for this incident than it was a week ago, and most people won’t be listening closely enough to criticize this apparent cover-up.


This is not even the only death connected to the police’s intense reaction to the Boston Marathon Bombings that appears to be highly questionable. Tamerlan Tsarnev reportedly died after his younger brother ran him over while fleeing from a gunfight with the cops. Worth noting, however, is that there is an eyewitness who claims she saw a “police SUV” run Tamerlan over before cops “shot him multiple times.” Her account of things was recorded on an unknown radio show and popularized in this YouTube video, which is really only gaining traction on conspiracy theory blogs. In light of Ibragim’s story, it seems credible that the cops would be more likely to kill Tamerlan than Tamerlan’s own brother, but again there is really no way to know for sure.

Clearly though, there was something about how Ibragim died that was worth lying about, which makes me wonder what it was he knew or said that led to his death in the first place. It is one of those situations where—as a result of the FBI’s lies and the general lack of available information—one tends to come up with conspiratorial explanations while trying to reach a conclusion.

For example, perhaps the FBI killed Ibragim in order to cover up information about the Tsarnevs they didn’t want out there. Or maybe the FBI agent’s gun went off by accident and they didn’t want anyone to find out. Who knows? At this point, anything is possible, because all that’s known is that Ibragim got angry at the feds, and then he got shot. Most sources seem to at least agree that he confessed to the triple-murder, but there was no signed, written confession, nor will he ever have the chance to plead guilty in court. On top of that, the FBI says it will take months to finish investigating this incident and Ibragim’s father has publicly stated his belief that the “FBI made up their accusations” because his son “worked helping disabled people in America and did sports.”


Unfortunately, given that Ibragim’s story stopped dead in his apartment on May 22nd, all that anyone can do is hypothesize, if one even feels like thinking about this incident in the first place, as the aftermath of the Boston bombing continues to unravel in bizarre ways.

Follow Patrick on Twitter: @patrickmcguire

More on the Boston Bombings:

A Long Way From Home

Surveying the Chaos at the Boston Marathon Bombings

The Boston Bomber Is Not Eric Twardzik