APB: At Least Two Missing “Law Enforcement Personnel,” Last Seen at Ibragim Todashev Homicide Scene

When the FBI first admitted that it had killed Ibragim Todashev, it indicated there were at least 5 people at the scene: Two Massachusetts State cops, the FBI Agent being blamed for shooting Todashev, and “law enforcement personnel” — plural — whom it chose not to describe at all.

The FBI is currently reviewing a shooting incident involving an FBI special agent. Based on preliminary information, the incident occurred in Orlando, Florida during the early morning hours of May 22, 2013. The agent, two Massachusetts State Police troopers, and other law enforcement personnel were interviewing an individual in connection with the Boston Marathon bombing investigation when a violent confrontation was initiated by the individual. During the confrontation, the individual was killed and the agent sustained non-life threatening injuries. As this incident is under review, we have no further details at this time. [my emphasis]

That number correlates with the third-hand report of Khusen Taramov, Todashev’s friend who was at the site of the killing, but then sent home after some hours of interrogation himself.

The father said Taramov told him that U.S. agents interrogated him on the street while five officials interrogated Todashev in his Florida house for eight hours on May 22, the night he was shot.

But the anonymous law enforcement sources now trying to straighten out the FBI story seem to have kidnapped or disappeared those at least two other “law enforcement personnel.” CNN obliquely notes this, though doesn’t explain the discrepancy (or point out FBI’s official statement seeming to support Todashev and Taramov’s version).

Contrary to what a U.S. official said, Todashev’s father claimed there were “four of five” law enforcement agents with his son at the time, “all armed.”

The rest of the press seem to be blithely disappearing the at least two additional “law enforcement personnel” without comment, now reporting that just the FBI Agent and two MSP cops were at the scene.

NYT:

The shooting occurred after an F.B.I. agent from Boston and two detectives from the Massachusetts State Police had been interviewing Mr. Todashev for several hours about his possible involvement in a triple homicide in Waltham, Mass., in 2011, according to the law enforcement official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation was continuing.

CBS:

The FBI says 27-year-old mixed martial arts fighter Ibragim Todashev was killed last week during a violent confrontation in his Orlando home while an FBI agent and two Massachusetts state troopers questioned him about his ties to slain Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev, as well as about a 2011 triple slaying in Massachusetts.

AP:

The FBI says Todashev was being questioned by an FBI agent and two Massachusetts state troopers about his ties to Tamerlan Tsarnaev, as well as about a 2011 triple slaying in Massachusetts.

Of course, between the time FBI said there was one FBI Agent and two MSP cops and at least two other “law enforcement personnel” and the FBI’s currently operative story that those at least two other “law enforcement personnel” weren’t there, one anonymous source was claiming secondhand that the (unnumbered) other “law enforcement officials” had stepped out of the room before the violence and killing started.

An official said that according to one account of the shooting, the other law enforcement officials had just stepped out of the room, leaving the FBI agent alone with Todashev, when the confrontation occurred.

The current NYT version, which for some reason a bunch of commentators are taking as credible, suggests one “detective” was in the room when the violence and shooting went down, but did not fire a weapon.

[Todashev] then started to write a statement admitting his involvement while sitting at a table across from the agent and one of the detectives when the agent briefly looked away, the official said.

At that moment, Mr. Todashev picked up the table and threw it at the agent, knocking him to the ground.

While trying to stand up, the agent, who suffered a wound to his face from the table that required stitches, drew his gun and saw Mr. Todashev running at him with a metal pole, according to the official, adding that it might have been a broomstick.

The agent fired several shots at Mr. Todashev, striking him and knocking him backward. But Mr. Todashev again charged at the agent. The agent fired several more shots at Mr. Todashev, killing him. The detective in the room did not fire his weapon, the official said.

There are a lot of ongoing problems with the FBI’s story, which I laid out here, and Conor Friedersdorf catalogued here. But this is an increasingly fascinating one.

The coroner in this case declared Todashev’s cause of death a homicide. But the FBI seems to be intent on ensuring that at least two people who were present at the scene of that homicide disappear entirely.

Update: Note that more sources are stating that an Orlando cop was at the scene, which would resolve who one of these at least two law enforcement personnel is.

And check out this BoGlo piece which tries to catalog and explain away all the changes to the story. While it admits that the story of how many and what kind of law enforcement has also changed, it doesn’t offer an explanation for that change.

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?

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

42 replies
  1. Ann MacGibbon says:

    Margaret Hartmann of New York Magazine four LE officers at the scene, one FBI agent, two MA state troopers, and an Orlando police officer. Here’s her description of the scene:

    http://tinyurl.com/k7wf5d4

    “When Todashev said he was ready to confess, one of the troopers left to make a phone call and the Orlando officer went with him. The trooper who remained in the room noticed Todashev was becoming agitated and texted the FBI agent so Todashev wouldn’t know what they were saying. When the agent looked down to read the message, Todashev threw the wooden table, knocking him into the wall. The agent suffered a wound to his face that required stitches. As he tried to stand, Todashev lunged at him with a metal pole.”

    Didn’t early stories say there were two FBI agents there? I need to dig up the earliest reports to see.

  2. emptywheel says:

    @Ann MacGibbon: I don’t think it was ever reported that there were 2 FBI guys. It’s just that they normally work in pairs, so there should have been.

  3. emptywheel says:

    @Ann MacGibbon: That’s an odd story in that it doesn’t mention Taramov. I’d say his claim to have been there at least the beginning is pretty credible, bc he knew exactly what happened and accurately publicized it.

  4. allan says:

    “The rest of the press seem to be blithely disappearing the at least two additional “law enforcement personnel” without comment …”

    One could even say that the press is aiding and abetting the FBI.

  5. Skilly says:

    I will not be surprised if the ME report becomes “classified.” It will likely show at least two weapons, and maybe three. Having read many a gun shot ME report there will be crucial information about the shootings contained re: powder marks and steepling. I feel certain there will be no ballistic tests requested or performed. This would be an excellent case for a grand Jury if there was a DA with the courage to do it.

  6. Ann MacGibbon says:

    @emptywheel: That is very odd. Even recently, I’ve seen claims that Taramov was in Todashev’s apartment when LE arrived, and then he was asked to leave.

    Very early on, some stories suggested there had been an interview at FBI HQ earlier in the day and Taramov had been dismissed from that meeting. Then the FBI supposedly showed up after midnight for another session after they learned Todashev had cancelled his trip.

    This whole thing is really disturbing, because I would expect the FBI to have been able to come up with a more coherent story at the beginning. I guess they expected to just get away with it. Weren’t there crime scene photos that would at least show what object Todashev was holding in his hands?

  7. Jeff Kaye says:

    It would make sense if there were HIG individuals involved. But perhaps that was classified and now the tap of info is shut off. After all, the govt. lies all the time and gets away with it. They are serial liars.

  8. greengiant says:

    The FBI has been so active trying to get informants and has reacted with no end of venom when rebuffed that the simplest explanation is either Todashev knew too much or the “FBI” interrogator/flipper A-team went beyond out of control.
    Check out Yonas Fikre’s 10 million dollar law suit.
    Since they have not found the Tsarnaev bomb build site yet, the simplest reality is that Tsarnaev’s FBI handler helped build the bombs but when the brothers moved bomb day up the FBI was left with people dead instead of their usual tactic of last minute arrest of their brain washed dummies.

  9. emptywheel says:

    @Jeff Kaye: Yeah, I’m thinking the same thing. Particularly given that HIG teams include JSOC (which can) and CIA (which cannot) operate domestically. If there were either present as a member of HIG, you can be sure that info is sensitive.

  10. tjallen says:

    Handguns are hard to shoot straight in panic situations at close quarters, even for trained personnel. Plus the agent was wounded badly enough to require stitches. The dramatic story of the lunging terrorist and the brave FBI agent twice shooting him down does account for a large number of bullet holes in the dead man. Did he hit him with every round fired, or are many more bullets to be found in the walls and ceiling? At this time, these details are not known.

    Are important terrorism interrogations like this recorded? videotaped? with witnesses and/or note-takers? The FBI is known for its professionalism.

    The interrogation went on for 8 hours? In his own home? With just these 5 or 6 characters? So much we don’t know.

  11. emptywheel says:

    @tjallen: FBI interviews are never taped, which is in fact the source of great lack of professionalism.

    Reports on length of interrogation varies.

  12. Ann MacGibbon says:

    @Ann MacGibbon: On May 22, CBS’ John Miller

    “reported that the FBI went to the apartment after midnight Wednesday morning to question him….The FBI went to question Todashev overnight after there were indications that he canceled that trip, Miller said. Todashev had been to Chechnya before.”

    http://tinyurl.com/kqpybnm

    Todashev was supposedly killed shortly after midnight, so how long could they have been there?

    Tamarov told WESH very early May 22 that

    “(The FBI) took me and my friend, (Ibragim Todashev). They were talking to us, both of us, right? And they said they need him for a little more, for a couple more hours, and I left, and they told me they’re going to bring him back. They never brought him back,” Taramiv said.”

    Back from where? He continues,

    “Taramiv said he left the interview, and when he came back to the apartments, he found that there had been a shooting.”

    http://tinyurl.com/lodlrf7

    I’m driving myself nuts with this.

  13. Frank33 says:

    The father said Taramov told him that U.S. agents interrogated him on the street while five officials interrogated Todashev in his Florida house for eight hours on May 22, the night he was shot.

    An 8 hour interrogation is a long time. The war on terror is a long war. What is there to talk about for 8 hours. There is a backstory to this being concealed.

  14. Skilly says:

    @emptywheel: That is why there are always two FBI agents in the interview at all times. They are there to corroborate each other. FBI SOP.

  15. Alexander says:

    @Skilly: Yes, given that the FBI has a standing policy not to record interviews, it makes sense that their SOP is to have two agents, with one taking notes of the interview. And yet all reports about this incident have said that there was only one FBI agent, which is strange in itself. Why only one, especially given that this was a fairly high profile investigation?

  16. scribe says:

    I remain of the opinion that, at least in part, this dead guy had Brady/Giglio information pertinent to the Boston bombing and it was more convenient to get rid of him than let him around to muss up that prosecution.

    Otherwise, why finish the job by capping him in the back of the head? That’s how NKVD executioners finished their inerrogations in the basement of Lubyanka – one in the back of the skull. And, as noted in this post over at TalkLeft, http://www.talkleft.com/story/2013/5/30/144737/939 he had 6 holes in his body and one in the back of the head.

    Like Comrade Stalin used to say: “no man, no problem.”

  17. emptywheel says:

    @Ann MacGibbon: Well, and HIG was involved in questioning Dzhokhar. So it might not be surprising if they were trying to get at the Boston attack through the gun acquired at Waltham.

  18. Mark Tenney says:

    Perhaps the trooper text message to FBI agent caused the FBI agent to stand up, knock over table, hit his head and start shooting. Basic causality makes this far more probable than the text and an attack from Todashev arrived at same time. This explains why they couldn’t figure out what was in Todashev’s hand.

  19. tjallen says:

    High-Value Interrogation Group, intelligence-gathering group created by the President of the United States in August 2009 (Wikipedia)

  20. Frank33 says:

    So in 2009 they created the HIG or HVIG. They had no interrogators or groups of interrogators before then, after trillions of dollars. Spy Guy Hayden said Undie #1 should have been questioned by HIG. But HIG did not exist then. Hayden always lies.

    The HIG probably just more Top Ultra Secret cover for the torturers with scopolamine. They get the Confession they need.

  21. reliable says:

    The Boston FBI office has a glorious history of corruption. It didn’t end with Whitey Bulger and John Connolly.

  22. john francis lee says:

    Maybe there was just one FBI guy because it was an HIG (JSOC/CIA) operation? They go there to hit the guy, they just spend the time they feel they need to determine who and how many other guys need killing. They kill him and then, their domestic – the FBI guy, takes the fall. That seems to be the FBI’s role now, domestics taking the fall.

  23. Skilly says:

    @emptywheel:
    And yet … just one involved here, as far as the FBI is telling us. How believable is that?

    Agreed, It is not to be believed. I think the story keeps changing because the FBI agent does not want to take this one for the team. HIG asks FBI to, “step outside for a moment while we have a chat with our non-compliant friend.” Gun goes bang. After that they are firing into a dead body for cover.

    All Of this will fall apart if there is any forensic investigation. Blood spatter will be a huge factor in this incident. I am willing to bet there will be none, due to, “too much crime scene contamination.” Put your FOIA request in now, but no way these reports see the light of day. I am starting to sound like scribe, I think.

  24. orionATL says:

    @reliable:

    this fact, and it is a fact, has been on my mind throughout this embroglio.

    and then there’s u.s.aa carmen diaz and her ruthless style – much appreciated by obama’s other rodent, u.s. AG eric holder.

  25. orionATL says:

    in my view it is a mistake in evaluating the fbi’s treatment of todaraev to focus on his killing.

    that is easy for the fbi to hide/obfuscate.

    the questions of concern were why was the fbi in florida questioning t. with a boston fbi office employee (who might have een a woman).

    why not one of their prize interrogators?

    why did the fbi show up when it did – nighttime, apparently.

    and stay as long as they did – eight hours.

    where were the miranda rights read to a non-native born citizen?

    was the fbi’s behavior in approaching and then in questioning todaraev designed to force a confession from him.

    finally, and very importantly, what special significance does a drug crime have compared to the crime committed in boston the day of the marathon.

    why send agent sue to florida fo pursue a drug crime suspect – maybe – when there are bigger fish to fry i terms of national security.

    the todaraev gambit seems like an effort to focus attention elsewhere – away from the fbi’s failure to pick up tsanaraev.

    but did the fbi really lose track of tsanaraev? did they really fail to attend to the info from the russians?

    personally, i doubt they lost track of tsansraev after russian tips and after tsanaraev’s flagrantly ingormative travel history.

  26. emptywheel says:

    @reliable: Yeah, I think one Occam’s Razor explanation for how bad the messaging here is bc of tensions bet the cops and the FBI, particularly the MSP and the FBI.

  27. emptywheel says:

    @orionATL: Reportedly, law enforcement suspects Tamerlan got the gun he used to kill the MIT cop at the scene of the Waltham murder.

    I’m not yet convinced Waltham WAS a drug crime–why would you leave money, after all?

    That said, the possible involvement of Todashev–whom no one claims was an Islamic extremist–might add a lot of nuance to whether that was all that was motivating Tamerlan.

  28. FrankProbst says:

    The whole Todashev episode is totally FUBARed, in my opinion. If you can’t get your story straight right away, you’re obviously covering something up. Even if it’s just simple incompetence–a twitchy agent panicked and shot the guy–the cover-up looks really bad.

    What’s worse, this could all bleed over into Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s trial. His best two defenses are “My brother made me do it” and “I was framed”. “I was framed” is starting to look pretty good right now. We were told that he confessed to everything right after he was caught (pre-Miranda), but I’m betting none of those confessions were recorded. Now we’ve got the FBI killing someone in the dead of night, and they can’t come up with a plausible explanation a week later. They’ve got a big credibility problem right now. I’m guessing that Dzhokar’s defense team is taking copious notes.

  29. Splashoil says:

    This subject would make a great Presser question for POTUS. SOP improvements planned? Why no recordings? etc..

  30. mindful says:

    The constantly changing story related to Todashev does seem strange– and the suggestion that perhaps there were perhaps military and/or intelligence personnel involved in the process doesn’t seem so far fetched. I just am not buying the execution or gross incompetence explanations at the moment.

    There are lots of odd tidbits about Todashev that haven’t really been pursued by the press.

    1) Just as with Tamerlan, it isn’t clear how Todashev supported himself. He also seems to have shared the elder Tsarnaev’s predilection for expensive cars.
    2) His wife, from whom he apparently is separated, lives in Georgia, but reportedly was helping to support him. This seems somewhat odd, given that Todashev is also reported to have a different (hotter?) girlfriend in Fl.
    3) His wife also has insisted that the FBI did not discuss the Waltham murder with Todashev. How could she know this if she was in Atlanta?
    4)There are also media reports that the condo that Todashev was living in in Florida was owned by someone residing in Texas. That someone is also of Chechen descent.
    5)The father’s explanation that Todashev came to America to “improve his English” doesn’t seem that credible to me.
    6) Todashev was skilled in the martial arts and known to be a hothead. That means that he could probably kill with his hands, or with some sort of improvised “long weapon” (like a metal broom handle). This might even be more likely if he knocked someone onto the floor.

    Perhaps there is another reason that the FBI doesn’t want to disclose Todashev’s modus operandi.

  31. emptywheel says:

    @mindful: Absolutely agree there are other possibilities.

    Or it coudl simply be that some idiot FBI Agent was left with one other person in teh room and started pushing him to sign a confession he didn’t want to sign and he made a move. Though if that’s the case, FBI ought to have said so right away.

    I’m agnostic about the explanation.

  32. reliable says:

    @emptywheel: Occam’s Razor. That’s perhaps the one weapon that Todashev hasn’t been accused of wielding.

    I agree that the Waltham murders don’t appear to be a drug crime at all. How did those guys come to be there at that time? Who was the other man, the never-identified roommate, who lived at the address? Or was it five men who lived there, as some neighbours said? Why the curious lack of information from the families of these men? And why was it suddenly so important to the Boston FBI that Tamerlan be implicated in these murders?

    Someone in the Bureau really wants this case closed pronto.

  33. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Muddying the water is a classic bit of defense lawyering. “If you can’t even identify who was there, you can’t convict my client for being the perpetrator.” Or so the refrain might go. Thanks, EW, for helping not lose in the shuffle that federal and local police witnessed the murder of a man in their custody, and one or more of them are the murderers.

    One would think that all these “law enforcement personnel” would be on enforced leave without pay pending their full and complete cooperation with an independent investigation and prosecution of this murder. That seems likely to happen about the time that Mr. Obama makes Dawn Johnsen Attorney General. Thank you, Mr. O, for your zealous advocacy of the rule of law and impartial justice. Not. He’s given us a DoJ more zealous in defense of connected criminals than Mr. BushCheney could have ever hoped for.

  34. Gerard Pierce says:

    @tjallen: There has been a recent article describing FBI interview procedures. Among the issues, as described:

    1. Interviews are conducted by a two person FBI team, with one person asking the questions and another making notes on a specific form. No recording is made, and none is allowed. In the case of an interviewee with an attorney, no recording by that attorney is allowed. If the attorney insists on recording the session, the interview is cancelled.

    2. The second agents notes are considered definitive, and any argument as to what was actually said is interpreted as lying to an FBI agent.

    The article strongly recommends that a person not cooperate in this kind of interview procedure because is designed to be completely one-sided and there is no way to challenge what is written down by the second agent.

  35. Procopius says:

    @scribe: I’ve been thinking a lot about that, too. I’ve been reading a novel by Alan Furst, “Night Soldiers.” Two East Europeans, a Bulgarian and a Macedonian, are attending an NKVD training program. Returning from a long exercise, one of them comments to the other that the slang expression is, “…give him 9 grams.” Nine grams is the approximate weight of a 9mm bullet (there’s a lot of variation, but probably the NKVD was highly standardized). Now I understand it’s quite possible for a guy to get shot in the front six times and then he spins around and another round hits the back of his head as he’s falling. Possible. Yeah. As another commenter said I wonder if we’ll ever be allowed to see the autopsy report.

Comments are closed.