A Florida prosecutor investigating the fatal shooting of a Chechen man by an FBI agent interrogating him about the Boston Marathon bombings said on Friday that he expects to release his findings early next year.
State Attorney Jeffrey L. Ashton said he met with US Department of Justice officials Wednesday to discuss their separate investigations into the killing of Ibragim Todashev, a friend of suspected bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev, in his Orlando apartment in the early hours of May 22.
Ashton, the top prosecutor in Orlando, received “additional investigative material” from Justice officials and requested more information, a spokesman said in a statement.
“The State Attorney and his staff will diligently continue their investigation into the death of Ibragim Todashev with the expectation of concluding the investigation and making the findings public in early 2014,” said Ashton’s spokesman, Richard Wallsh. A state attorney in Florida is similar to a district attorney in Massachusetts.
Ashton is conducting the only independent inquiry into the shooting of the 27-year-old mixed martial arts fighter in his Orlando apartment. The FBI and its overseeing agency, the Department of Justice, are also investigating to determine whether the use of deadly force was reasonable under the law. But civil rights groups had welcomed Ashton’s independent inquiry, pointing out that such FBI investigations typically clear the agents involved.
Lawyers and government officials have said the state and federal investigations could lead to a reprimand or even criminal charges against the agent who killed Todashev.
However, on Wednesday, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations expressed concern that Ashton may rely too heavily on the FBI’s account of the shooting.
“It’s curious that it’s taken so long,” said Hassan Shibly, executive director of CAIR in Florida. “I’m interested to see what, if anything, has been recently offered that’s requiring them to delay the investigation.
FBI spokesman Paul Bresson declined to comment while the investigation is still pending.
The FBI has remained tight-lipped about the Todashev shooting, saying only that the agent, two Massachusetts State Police troopers and others were questioning Todashev as part of the investigation into the Boston Marathon bombings when he allegedly initiated a violent confrontation and was shot and killed. The FBI said the agent was injured.
However, the FBI has refused to say if Todashev was armed or describe the confrontation that led to the fatal shooting. Instead, media reports based on anonymous sources have said that Todashev was armed with a stick or a pole and lunged at an agent as he was about to sign a confession to his and Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s alleged involvement in a 2011 triple murder in Waltham.
Todashev had been arrested at least twice before he was killed, for a road-rage incident in Boston in 2010 and again in Florida, weeks before he was killed, for allegedly beating a man over a parking space.
Todashev was a friend of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of two brothers suspected of planting two bombs in April at the Boston Marathon finish line that killed three people and injured more than 260 others. Tamerlan Tsarnaev died April 19 after a confrontation with police in Watertown. His younger brother Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 20, is in federal custody facing charges. The Tsarnaev brothers also allegedly killed an MIT police officer.
Todashev’s family and friends have said he did nothing wrong and have sharply questioned the FBI’s account of the shooting. The Council on American-Islamic Relations has pointed out that Todashev had voluntarily spoken with the FBI at least three times at their offices before they came to his apartment, and later shot and killed him.
Todashev’s father, Abdulbaki Todashev, a government official in Chechnya, has said he believed his son was unarmed and could not have attacked the authorities because he was still recovering from knee surgery. He has accused the FBI of “premeditated, intentional murder” and is considering a wrongful death lawsuit against the bureau.
Shibly, the CAIR director, also raised concern Wednesday that federal immigration officials arrested two potential witnesses to the FBI’s conduct leading up to the shooting. Todashev’s girlfriend, Tatiana Gruzdeva, was arrested for having an expired visa before he was killed and was deported to Russia on Oct. 11 after talking to the media.
Todashev’s friend, Ashurmamad Miraliev, was also ordered to leave the country voluntarily after local authorities arrested him in September for allegedly trying to intimidate a witness in an unrelated case. The charges against Miraliev have been dropped, according to the Osceola County court. He left the country on Nov. 19.