Tuesday: “I Was There, But I Didn’t Do The Murders”

Ibragim Todashev and Reni Manukyan (courtesy of The Guardian)

Ibragim Todashev and Reni Manukyan (courtesy of The Guardian)

Good Morning!!

This morning public radio station WBUR in Boston broadcast a detailed report about the killing of Ibragim Todashev in his apartment in Orlando, Florida, on May 22, 2013, reportedly by an agent from the FBI office in Boston.

Todashev was a friend of alleged Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev. The FBI claims that before he died, Todashev confessed that he and Tsarnaev had participated in a grisly triple murder that took place on September 11, 2011 in Waltham Massachusetts. For some more background, here is a post I wrote about the case on May 30 of last year.

The WBUR report by David Boeri provides the most detail yet on this confusing and frustrating story. You can listen to the 13-minute broadcast here and/or read the written report, Interrogation Turned Deadly: Questions Remain In Todashev Shooting. Until now, the FBI has stubbornly stonewalled the media and Congress, even refusing to allow the release of Todashev’s autopsy.

According to the report, WBUR learned the names of the FBI agents and Massachusetts State troopers who were present in Todashev’s apartment at the time of the shooting, but agreed not to reveal the names because it would put the agents and troopers in danger.

Todashev’s widow Reni Manukyan, from whom he was separated, was also interviewed for the story.

If you’re at all interested, I highly recommend reading the whole article at WBUR, because it is too long and detailed to summarize, and excerpts won’t do it justice.

But here are some new details about how the shooting happened. Keep in mind that for weeks leading up to the final day of Todashev’s life he had repeatedly been interviewed by FBI agents, called on the phone by them, and tailed by them everywhere he went. Todashev’s girlfriend had was also being held on immigration charges and was being pressured to inform on him.

Inside the condominium unit, I have learned from law enforcement sources, Todashev faced an agent assigned to the Boston office of the FBI and two Massachusetts State Police troopers — one of them assigned to the Middlesex district attorney. Middlesex County has responsibility for investigating the unsolved triple murder in Waltham in 2011. With the troopers’ arrival, it appears the focus of interest was changing from terrorism to murder….

In Orlando, the interrogation of Todashev was extraordinarily long.

“The fact that there were multiple officers present there questioning him for a period of hours clearly indicated that Mr. Todashev did not feel that he was free to leave,” said Thomas Nolan, who chairs the criminal justice department at the State University of New York at Plattsburgh. Nolan was also a Boston police officer for 27 years.

“Mr. Todashev was obviously not free to leave if he chose so,” Nolan added. “So he was in effect in custody here.”

At this point the agent(s) should have read Todashev his Miranda rights, but the FBI won’t say whether that happened. They may have decided that since Todashev had “invited” them into his home, they could continue questioning him until he told them to stop or asked for an attorney. If so, they apparently made the wrong decision.

“If you’re beginning to accuse somebody of a triple murder back in Massachusetts, that’s going to generate stress and crisis and conflict,” said Tom Shamshak, a police trainer, instructor in investigations at Boston University and former Massachusetts police chief.

There was a challenge and a danger in being in Todashev’s home, because it was his home— where he was most comfortable, and where, if there were any weapons, he knew where they were and the police did not. The one place police would know there were weapons was the one place they are told in training to avoid when making accusations and where they dread going when responding to calls of domestic disputes: the kitchen, which has knives….

“The accusatory tone in an interrogation … it’s hot,” Shamshak said. “So you have a hot, volatile back-and-forth with the officers: ‘I don’t want to hear that. I know you did it.’ It’s like a volcano.”

And, at some point in the long night of a very long interrogation, Todashev broke, according to law enforcement sources familiar with accounts of what happened who requested anonymity because they do not have permission to speak publicly.

“I was there, but I didn’t do the murders,” Todashev said, according to those sources. Under the heat, they say, Todashev blamed Tsarnaev for the murders.

That was what the agents had been waiting for. Next, they tried to get Todashev to write out a confession and sign it; but they claim Todashev lost control, flipped over the table, knocked the agent down, “came at him with a ‘pipe,'” and according to the agent, “would have split his skull.” And so,

Sources say the FBI agent fired in two bursts. With a burst of three bullets, Todashev went down, according to this account. Then, to the amazement of the agent and the trooper, the ultimate fighter Todashev came up again. The agent fired four more. It was 12:15, the official time of death, Manukyan says.

I’ve already quoted too much from the story, so please go read the whole thing if you’re interested–it’s absolutely riveting. Congratulations to David Boeri and WBUR for getting so much detail–apparently from sources who were present at the scene of Todashev’s shooting. Perhaps this will put enough pressure on the FBI for them to release their own report.

I have a few more news items for you, but I’ll post them in the comment thread. I’ve already had a horrible WordPress glitch today that made me have to rewrite part of this post, and I’m way behind in my real-world schedule. So, please join me in the comments!