An FBI agent shot and killed a man of Chechen origin who turned violent while being questioned on Wednesday about his connection to Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of two Chechen brothers suspected of carrying out the Boston Marathon bombings. By Barbara Liston and Mark Hosenball.
A friend of the dead man identified him to local media as 27-year-old Ibragim Todashev, who had previously lived in Boston and knew Tsarnaev, the older of the two brothers suspected of planting two bombs at the marathon on April 15, killing three people and injuring 264 others.
NBC News reported on Wednesday that Todashev had confessed to his involvement in an unsolved 2011 triple homicide in a Boston suburb that investigators believe was drug related.
Authorities were investigating possible connections between Tsarnaev, who died in a shootout with police, and the 2011 incident.
Three men including a close friend of Tsarnaev were found stabbed in the neck in an apartment on Sept. 12, 2011, in Waltham, Massachusetts. News reports said marijuana was strewn over their bodies.
Wednesday’s incident took place at an apartment complex near the Universal Studios theme park, where the FBI and members of other law enforcement agencies including the Massachusetts State Police were interviewing the man about the marathon bombing.
“A violent confrontation was initiated by the individual,” the FBI said. A special agent, it said, “acting on the imminent threat posed by the individual, responded with deadly force. The individual was killed and the special agent was transported to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.”
The possibility that Tsarnaev was connected to the Waltham murders is “being looked at seriously,” said Republican Representative Peter King, chairman of the counter-terrorism and intelligence subcommittee of the House Homeland Security Committee. Other U.S. officials confirmed the investigation did involve Tsarnaev’s possible role.
A source said, however, that while Tsarnaev’s connection to the Waltham killings was actively under investigation, at this point there was no evidence to suggest the murders were linked to the Tsarnaev brothers’ possible motives or actions in allegedly carrying out the marathon bombings.
A spokeswoman for the office of the District Attorney of Middlesex County, Massachusetts, where the murders occurred, said her office had been conducting an open and active homicide investigation in the case since 2011, and that local and state police investigators were involved. She declined to comment on possible involvement of federal agencies.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, and his 19-year-old brother Dzhokhar are suspected of setting off two pressure-cooker bombs at the marathon finish line. Dzhokhar is being held at a prison hospital west of Boston awaiting trial on charges that carry the possibility of the death penalty.
‘THEY JUST KNEW EACH OTHER’
Todashev knew Tsarnaev because both were mixed martial-arts fighters in Boston but had no connection to the bombing, according to friend of Todashev, identified by local media as Khusen Taramov.
Todashev had been questioned several times by law enforcement agents since the day the Tsarnaev brothers were identified as suspects in the Boston bombing, he told Central Florida News 13.
“After they found out the bombers were Chechnyans … they started following us, watching us,” said Taramov.
Todashev met with FBI agents Tuesday night, he said, adding that the dead man had been planning to fly back to Chechnya.
Law enforcement officials have also interviewed another person of Chechen origin, ex-rebel Musa Khadzhimuratov, at his home in New Hampshire, the New York Times reported last week. Khadzhimuratov, who had served as a bodyguard to a top Chechen separatist leader during the region’s civil war with Russia more than a decade ago, also had contact with Tsarnaev.
Neighbors said that in recent weeks, they had noticed what looked like undercover officers in unmarked cars in the parking lot outside the apartment complex where Todashev was shot and killed. Several neighbors said he jogged on the paths through the complex shadow boxing, and sometimes swam laps in the pool and sparred with friends on the pool deck.
Todashev was arrested on May 4 and charged with aggravated battery after getting into a fight with another man over a parking space at an Orlando shopping mall, according to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office in Orlando.
The man, who suffered a split upper lip and had several teeth knocked out of place, did not to press charges against Todashev, who was released from jail on a $3,500 bond, a sheriff’s spokeswoman said.
Before the Boston bombings, Tamerlan Tsarnaev had been listed on multiple U.S. government databases, including a master list of potential terrorism suspects. U.S. authorities also were asked twice by Russia to investigate Tsarnaev for possible involvement with Islamic militants, U.S. officials have said.
Also, on Wednesday afternoon, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder was scheduled to meet in Washington with Vladimir Kolokoltsev, Russia’s interior minister. The meeting’s agenda was unclear, but U.S. investigators are anxious to learn what Russian authorities knew about the Tsarnaevs and about what Tamerlan Tsarnaev did during a six-month trip to Russia last year. DM
Photo: Ibragim Todashev is pictured in this undated booking photo courtesy of the Orange County Corrections Department. An FBI agent shot and killed a Florida man with suspected links to the Boston Marathon bombings early on May 22, 2013, NBC News reported. The Orlando Sentinel said a friend had identified the dead man as 27-year-old Ibragim Todashev of Orlando. REUTERS/Orange County Corrections Department/Handout
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