When will the public learn the whole story about the shooting of Ibragim Todashev? An FBI agent killed Todashev under mysterious circumstances during an interrogation in Florida on May 22, just as the 27-year-old Russian seemed to be on the verge of revealing important information about Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev. After the shooting, the agency promised a full investigation. But after two and a half months, no information has been forthcoming. If the bureau won’t provide a full accounting, the other agencies involved should produce one instead.
Investigators had zeroed in on Todashev, a martial arts fighter and friend of Tsarnaev’s, in hopes of gaining information about a 2011 triple homicide in Waltham in which Tsarnaev and Todashev may have played a role. Solving that crime would not only grant some closure to the families of the victims, but provide a fuller picture of Tsarnaev in the years leading up to the bombing.
What exactly happened at Todashev’s Orlando apartment that night has been shrouded by conflicting accounts. After days of questioning, Todashev had reportedly implicated himself and Tsarnaev in the Waltham murders. In one version of what occurred next, Todashev attacked the FBI agent with a blade; in another version, he lunged at him with a metal pole or broomstick; in a third, Todashev was unarmed. The medical examiner in Florida completed a report on Todashev’s death, but the FBI has prevented the examiner’s office from releasing its findings to the public, citing the ongoing investigation.
The killing of anyone by law enforcement is troubling, and the public deserves a full accounting of what happened. Unfortunately, the FBI, through its foot-dragging so far, and record of exonerating its own agents in shooting investigations, doesn’t inspire much confidence. Massachusetts and Florida both have an interest in the case: The shooting happened in Florida, and two Massachusetts State Police troopers were present. The ACLU has asked state officials to investigate, too; Florida authorities rejected the request, but Massachusetts should accept it.
There is no doubt that law enforcement agencies, from local police to federal officials, responded heroically amid the chaos of the bombing. But there are still too many open questions about possible missed clues before the bombing, and possible mistakes after. Not just the killing of Todashev, but the handling of the Tsarnaev brothers, the lockdown of the city during the manhunt, and the shooting of an officer in Watertown apparently by friendly fire — all these issues warrant a full investigation. For the sake of accountability, and to learn for future incidents, law enforcement shouldn’t shy away from the complete review that the public is owed.