Amid ever-shifting accounts of what happened inside of the Orlando apartment where Ibragim Todashev was shot and killed by a Boston-based FBI agent last week, a growing chorus of voices is calling for an independent investigation into the shooting.
After 10 days of conflicting reports, even the most basic facts in Todashev’s killing remain unclear: Did he or did he not have a weapon when he was shot and killed? And, who was in the room at the time of the shooting?
Citing the agency’s ongoing investigation, FBI officials have been tight-lipped when it comes to speaking on the record about what led to the shooting. Unnamed law enforcement officials, however, have spoken to various media outlets — creating a whirlwind of clashing narratives.
“They need to answer to the public about what happened,” said Reni Manukyan, Todashev’s widow, in an interview with the Globe. “I want justice for what happened.”
Todashev, a friend of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was shot and killed during the early morning hours of May 22 after submitting to more than five hours of a voluntary interview with an FBI agent. The FBI had been monitoring Todashev, 27, for more than a month, interviewing him at least five times, according to friends.
A Muslim advocacy group, the Council of American-Islamic Relations, as well as Todashev family members in Russia, has called for an investigation by the Department of Justice’s civil rights division.
“We want to be clear that we’re not accusing the FBI of anything,” Council of American-Islamic Relations spokesman Hassan Shibly said. “But we want to make sure that this is handled fairly, and the incident is reviewed by an unbiased, outside party.”
Justice Department officials said Friday they are monitoring the FBI’s investigation but refused to commit to conducting their own inquiry.
“As it does with all such matters, the civil rights division will make an independent determination whether a civil rights investigation is warranted,” said Dena Iverson, a Justice Department spokeswoman, in a statement. “If further investigation is warranted, the civil rights division and the US attorney’s office for the middle district of Florida will direct that investigation and make an independent decision.”
In the hours after the shooting, unnamed law enforcement officials gave media outlets a narrative that suggested Todashev had attacked the FBI agent just as he was confessing to a gruesome 2011 triple murder in Waltham while implicating Tsarnaev in the crime as well.
But, since the shooting, the Middlesex district attorney’s office, which is investigating the Waltham killings, has refused requests for comment on Todashev’s connection to the crime and the FBI has released scant official information, including the confession allegedly signed by Todashev.
The Massachusetts State Police, which had two troopers at Todashev’s apartment at the time of the shooting, has not clarified whether they were in the room when Todashev was killed. A department spokesman did not return calls for comment about Todashev’s shooting over the course of two days.
In the absence of authoritative information, national media outlets have reported at least five different scenarios of how Todashev came to be killed.
Some media outlets, including the Globe, initially reported that Todashev attacked the officers with a “blade” — with reports differing on whether it was a knife or a sword. More recently, The New York Times reported that Todashev’s weapon was a “pole” that could have been a broomstick.
Still others, including the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post, have reported that Todashev was unarmed when he was killed, but that he could have been reaching for the agent’s gun.
Attempting to clarify the confusion, a person who was briefed on the shooting of Todashev told the Globe on Thursday that investigators had initially thought Todashev had wielded a sword at the FBI agent, but later concluded that it was a pole. Adding to the chaos at the shooting scene, this person said that Todashev did own a ceremonial sword which was in the room.
Photos provided to the Globe of Todashev’s body taken by his friend Khusen Taramov, who is helping facilitate his burial in Russia, show the man was shot at least seven times. Wounds that appear to be caused by bullets are visible at the top of his head, in his shoulder, stomach, and chest. Family members have said that the Florida medical examiner told them that Todashev was shot seven times.
FBI officials have not confirmed the number of shots fired by the agent and have ordered the autopsy performed on Todashev’s body by the Florida medical examiner to be sealed.
The lack of publicly available information has raised the ire of Todashev’s family members in both the United States and Russia and, Friday, the Washington Post called for the federal government to make clear what happened in the moments that led to the shooting.
“The last thing the US government needs to do is fuel wild conspiracy theories by releasing too little information or investigating too slowly,” the paper’s editorial board wrote in an unsigned piece. “The Obama administration must move heaven and earth to get to the bottom of what happened and make it public — quickly.”