Slain suspect had thought about missing FBI interview
ORLANDO — Last Sunday, FBI agents called Ibragim Todashev to schedule what they said would be their last interview about the Chechen native’s relationship with one of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects, said his friend, Khusen Taramov.
Todashev agreed to a Tuesday night interview, but only at his Orlando apartment, because he feared that if he went to an FBI office, he would never be let out, said his friend.
As the 7:30 p.m. appointment approached, Todashev considered skipping the meeting. “He thought something bad was going to happen,” said Taramov. “He thought they were going to make up some charge and arrest him.”
Hours into that interview, Todashev was shot and killed by an FBI agent, after he allegedly attacked and injured the interrogator.
The Globe has reported that the fatal shooting occurred after the 27-year-old mixed martial arts fighter had implicated himself in an unsolved 2011 triple homicide in Waltham. Investigators now believe Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who was friendly with one of the Waltham victims, may also have played a role in the grisly slayings.
Taramov and Todashev’s estranged wife, Reni Manukyan, insisted Thursday that authorities never questioned them or Todashev, about the Waltham slayings before the night of the fatal encounter with the FBI.
The FBI declined to comment Thursday on the Orlando shooting, beyond saying that an FBI team from Washington continues to investigate what happened in the apartment.
Todashev’s violent death brought a shocking end to the FBI’s intense scrutiny of the former Allston and Cambridge man, which began within days after authorities identified Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, and his brother, Dzhokhar, 19, ethnic Chechens like Todashev and Taramov, as the alleged bombers who planted explosives near the finish line of the city’s historic race on April 15.
The terrorist attack killed three and wounded more than 260. The brothers are also suspects in the April 18 slaying of MIT police Officer Sean Collier in Cambridge.
The family of one of the victims killed in the blasts, 8-year-old Martin Richard, announced Thursday that his younger sister, Jane, was discharged from Boston Children’s Hospital and will continue her recovery at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital.
“While we remain devastated over Martin’s death and all that has happened to us, Jane’s determination for getting better is an inspiring source of strength for the entire family,” the family said in a statement.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed after a shootout with police in Watertown during the early hours of April 19. Dzhokhar is in federal custody facing a possible death sentence and has been scheduled for a July 10 probable cause hearing in US District Court in Boston.
On the day Todashev was interviewed in Florida for the final time by the FBI, he was preparing for a trip home to Russia, said his anguished father.
“He was supposed to be on a plane tomorrow, but he [was] told he had to meet with the FBI,” the father, Abdulbaki Todashev, said Thursday in an emotional telephone interview from Grozny, Russia, in which he clearly struggled to understand the events that led to his son’s death.
“My son is not capable of this,” he said, of Ibragim Todashev’s alleged attack on an armed agent. “He would never attack a police officer. He believed in justice, and perhaps this was his failing. He could not bear injustice.”
Asked how this trait might have affected his son’s reaction Wednesday, Todashev said, “If they came to your house at night and bullied you for eight hours, would you be able to keep calm? I think any person’s innate survival instinct would switch on.”
Todashev said that he has not been contacted by US authorities about his son’s death and that he found out about the fatal shooting from friends who saw the news on the Internet.
The father said his son never mentioned any connection to the unsolved Waltham murders, and he does not believe his son had anything to do with them or with the Marathon bombings.
“If they suspected him for something, why did they give him a green card?,” the father said. “There is a clear picture emerging that this is all fabricated. They killed my son, and then they made up a reason to explain it. If there’s an earthquake somewhere, they blame Chechens. If there’s a flood in Africa, they blame Chechens.”
On Thursday, a quiet hush hung over the site of the shooting, a series of two-story housing units. Just after 5 p.m., Orlando police officers removed some of the crime scene tape from the apartment complex, opening a strip of roadway that had been closed since the shooting.
Moments later, two FBI agents emerged from the apartment and told reporters that the investigation at the scene was still active and it was unclear how much longer it would take.
Ibragim Todashev arrived in the United States several years ago on a visa to study. He was granted asylum, protection given to foreigners with a credible fear for their safety in their homelands because of religious, political, or other specific forms of persecution, the Globe has reported.
But, his father, who is a ranking official in the mayor’s office in Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, which is a region in Russia, said his son would not have been persecuted in Chechnya and he did not know why he would have been granted asylum.
In February, Todashev was granted legal permanent residence in the United States.
Todashev, by some accounts a hothead, was arrested at gunpoint May 4 after allegedly beating up a man in a dispute in a parking lot. He was also arrested in Boston in 2010 after an altercation following a traffic accident.
Taramov said FBI agents first called Todashev just days after Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed, and they interviewed him daily by phone. The agents repeatedly grilled Todashev about when and how often he spoke to Tsarnaev, said Taramov.
Todashev’s estranged wife, Manukyan, said Thursday that the couple had met in Boston and married in 2010. First, they lived in Atlanta, near Manukyan’s family before moving to Florida sometime in 2011, she said.
The revelation that Tamerlan may have been involved in the Waltham killings has raised the possibility that the Marathon bombing could have been prevented if the triple homicide had been solved.
Middlesex District Attorney Marian T. Ryan issued a statement Thursday defending the pace of the investigation into the Waltham murders.
“While we can not discuss details pertaining to the investigation — including evidence, suspects or witnesses — this office and its law enforcement partners have conducted a thorough, far-reaching investigation beginning in 2011 when this horrific crime occurred,’’ Ryan said in the statement. “This investigation has not concluded and is by no means closed.”
The statement acknowledged that the FBI is now part of the investigatory team, which also includes prosecutors and Waltham and State Police.
Ryan said her office would not discuss the investigation with the public.
Todashev’s body will be shipped back to family in Russia, which is expected to cost the family about $10,000, said his friend.
Tearful yet focused on the task at hand, Manukyan prepared Thursday to identify the body. “I’m the only one he needs to hold it together, who needs to be holding up. So I am,” she said. “Once this is finished, then I can mourn.”
Even after the body is buried, Taramov’s life will not be returning to normal. He said he quit his job at a pizzeria.
“My boss called me and said: Don’t show up here, it’s too dangerous,” Taramov said in disgust.
“Not even a ‘I’m sorry for your loss.’ Nothing.”