FBI Releases Files Relating to Killing of Ibragim Todashev

Belated and heavily redacted, of course.

On Monday, the FBI released its files—belatedly, and heavily redacted—relating to the killing of Ibragim Todashev, the man who was, by the FBI’s account, in the middle of implicating himself and Boston marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev in the brutal 2011 murders of three Waltham men, when FBI agent Aaron McFarlane shot Todashev seven times.

Days after McFarlane shot Todashev—who was into the fifth hour of an FBI interrogation in his Orlando apartment at the time of his death— a man who described himself as “not really friends” with Todashev “offered” to agents that, “Todashev was a person who lost control easily,” according to the newly released files.

“He probably made some kind of sudden motion that caused the agents to shoot him,” the man added.

The man’s actual identity and his relationship to Todashev are, like much of the file, redacted.

Those browsing though the FBI’s 200-page file looking for answers about Todashev’s death, or the still-unsolved triple murder in Waltham, will be disappointed.

What happened on the night of Todashev’s fatal interview was the subject of a months-long investigative report by Boston magazine in collaboration with This American Life.

Spoiler alert: Reports of Todashev’s hair-trigger temper are nothing new. And it’s worth keeping in mind that Todashev’s family is attempting to sue the FBI for $30 million, saying the bureau breached its duty to keep him safe by interviewing him in his own home with so few officers in the room.

From the FBI file alone, one would be led to believe that agents only learned about Todashev’s temper from the “not really” friend—after Todashev’s death. In fact, they knew about it well in advance.

After speaking to dozens of sources, and combing through police reports, Boston magazine uncovered numerous examples of the young Chechnyan immigrant’s propensity for violent outbursts. In one incident, we found that federal agents watched at a distance as Todashev hospitalized a man in a fight over a parking space.

A report released by Florida State Attorney Jeffrey Ashton revealed that not only had agents watched the incident without intervening, they videotaped it—and law enforcement officers who interrogated Todashev in his final, fatal interview had seen the footage before interviewing him.

At stake in the lawsuit by Todashev’s family may be the question of whether the FBI could reasonably have foreseen the possibility of Todashev lashing out. The FBI was aware that Todashev was a trained mixed-martial artist, and they’d watched his temper boil over in the parking lot incident. Should his interrogators have been better prepared for what happened in Orlando? After five hours of interrogation on the night of his death—just after he’d begun writing a confession—Todashev allegedly slammed a coffee table on McFarlane’s head and came at Massachusetts State Trooper Curtis Cinelli with a broomstick.

Todashev’s FBI files shows investigators checked the coffee table for Todashev’s fingerprints. They match.

But the file does not explain why law enforcement failed to keep four men in the room with Todashev throughout the course of the interview, as they planned. At the time of Todashev’s death, only two men—McFarlane and Cinelli—were present.

Nor does it explain why law enforcement thought it would be safe for themselves—or for Todashev—to have a trained fighter questioned in his own home, when they knew he had a Samurai sword hanging on the wall. The FBI file released this week shows the agents attempted to hide the sword behind a white wire shoe rack, suggesting that they were already concerned it could be used against them.

Neither does Todashev’s FBI file explain why Cinelli thought it was a good idea to text the message “Whos your daddy?” to an unnamed source while Todashev was still sitting, unrestrained, and allegedly confessing to the near-beheading of three marijuana dealers in Waltham.

The file also sheds no light on why the agency hired McFarlane despite his checkered past working for the Oakland police department.

McFarlane has since been cleared by both the Department of Justice and by Ashton’s office of any wrongdoing in Todashev’s killing. Both ruled he acted in self-defense. The file released this week shows a black-and-white photo of the shirt McFarlane was wearing, covered with blood on its left side.

Meanwhile, despite Todashev’s confession, the Waltham triple murder is still open and supposedly under investigation by the Middlesex County DA’s office. According to the prosecutors who tried Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, investigators have no DNA evidence tying Todashev or either of the Tsarnaev brothers to the crime.