Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Public safety

Father of Chechen man shot by FBI speaks out, hires prominent Tampa attorney

TAMPA — The father of a Chechen man killed by an FBI agent in Orlando while being questioned about his relationship to a Boston Marathon bombing suspect said Tuesday he welcomes an official inquiry into the shooting.

Appearing before a throng of reporters and TV cameras in the Tampa office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Abdulbaki Todashev said his son, Ibragim Todashev, was a "good boy" whose life was cut short.

"I came to America to put my faith in the American justice system," said Todashev, a Chechen who spoke through a Russian interpreter. "I hope and pray that no mother and no father will have to endure what I have been through."

CAIR organized the news conference in cooperation with prominent Tampa lawyer Barry Cohen and local lawyer Eric Ludin, both of whom the organization retained to represent Todashev.

Cohen, who did not attend the news conference but spoke via phone afterward, said he welcomed an inquiry into the death being conducted by Jeff Ashton, the state attorney for Orange and Osceola counties, and expects both a criminal indictment and civil action to result against the FBI agent.

"Usually, investigators engage in what we call 'willful blindness.' They routinely protect their own," Cohen said. "I'm really comfortable that somebody not guided by political considerations is involved in this case."

Hassan Shibly, the executive director of CAIR in Tampa, said the organization wants to ensure that a fair and thorough investigation into Todashev's death takes place.

"The reason we are involved in this case is because of the very strong civil rights implications it has," Shibly said. "The great thing about this country is, we hold our law enforcement officials accountable and they have to answer to us. We've made it very clear that we just want to know what happened and how it can be avoided in the future."

Ibragim Todashev was shot May 22 while being questioned about his relationship to Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of two brothers suspected of being involved in the April 15 bombings at the Boston Marathon, which killed three and injured hundreds.

The shooting happened after an FBI agent from Boston and two detectives from the Massachusetts State Police interviewed Todashev for several hours about his possible involvement in a triple homicide in Waltham, Mass., in 2011, according to the New York Times.

Todashev, according to the FBI, confessed his involvement in the deaths and implicated Tamerlan Tsarnaev. He then started to write a statement admitting his involvement while sitting at a table across from the agent and one of the detectives, the official said. When the agent briefly looked away, Todashev, 27, picked up the table and threw it, knocking the agent to the ground.

The New York Times reported that federal law enforcement officials provided differing accounts of the episode, initially saying Todashev had a knife. Later they said Todashev "exploded" at the agent and might have had a pipe or might not have had anything in his hands.

Since the shooting, private investigators have examined the available evidence and developed theories of what they say really happened, attorney Eric Ludin said. Among their findings was that Todashev suffered at least seven gunshot wounds. He also noted that Todashev, at the time of the shooting, was recovering from recent knee surgery and was in no condition to fight.

"Other than being an acquaintance of the Boston bomber, they (the authorities) had no other reason to question him," Ludin said. "What I'm hoping for is that we find out the truth because Mr. Todashev deserves to find out what happened to his son."

Paul Bresson, a national spokesman for the FBI, declined to comment on the case, citing an ongoing review by the U.S. Department of Justice.

"I understand that there would be some sort of frustration," Bresson said. "But it just takes time for the process to play out."

That, Ludin said, is something Todashev and those representing him are willing to let happen. They are confident, he said, that the FBI will be held accountable.

At the news conference, the lawyers displayed a photo collage showing the younger Todashev, an ethnic Chechen, as a boy and in adulthood. One photo showed him kicking a heavy bag during mixed martial arts training, an interest he shared with Tsarnaev.

Other shots, which Todashev's father took after the shooting, depicted the young man's Orlando apartment. In one, a bloodstained carpet marked the spot where he died.

   
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