I finally finished reading and thinking about Florida State’s Attorney Ashton’s thorough report on the killing of Ibragim Todashev. The basic facts contained in the report were known within hours or days after the homicide. I’ll never understand why we had to wait so long (10 months) for an official report on what happened.
I cannot figure why the FBI did not released an initial preliminary report back in May 2013 stating something to the effect: “An FBI agent and a Massachusetts State Trooper were in the Orlando, Florida, apartment of Ibragim Todashev interviewing him in connection with a triple homicide that occurred in Waltham, Ma. on September 11, 2011, when shortly after midnight on May 22, 2013, Todashev, a well-known martial arts expert, attacked the FBI agent striking him on the head. He then fled from the room in which they were sitting into the kitchen. He returned carrying a stick and wielding it in such a threatening manner that the FBI agent fearing for his life or great bodily injury shot him resulting in his death. Two other law enforcement officers were present at the time but they were standing outside the apartment at the time of the incident. A complete report will follow upon the completion of the investigation.”
What is so hard about that?
To his credit, Florida State Attorney Jeffrey L. Ashton’s report reflects an exceedingly thorough investigation by his office. It was as complete as one could expect. His investigator, Eric Edwards, did not rely on the reports provided by the FBI other than in one case (FBI agent who did shooting refused to be interviewed) but did a thorough investigation on his own going back through the evidence in a professional, systematic and painstaking manner. It was a well done job that left little for me to question.
Given the facts as set out in the report, there is little doubt in my mind that the officers present at the scene acted responsibly and the homicide of Todashev was an act of self-defense by the FBI agent who acted to protect not only himself but the Massachusetts trooper was was in immediate danger of being severely injured.
The officers present knew of the martial arts background of Todashev and through most of the interview acted properly in having him outnumbered by three to one. During that time Todashev acted in control and presented no threat. When one trooper walked outside to contact the DA in Middlesex, the odds had changed as Todashev must have seen it. Then he changed his compliant behavior into one that gave the trooper on the scene cause for concern.
While this was happening Todashev had already implicated himself in the triple homicide in Waltham. Fortunately, the state troopers had recording devices operating which would support the claim that he had done this. Also, there was the partial written statement as further corroboration. I’m sure this is one time the FBI is glad recordings were made; perhaps it will learn from this of the benefit they bring in resolving doubt.
One curious thing happened. The trooper who was in contact with the Middlesex DA was told by the DA not to arrest him until he got a warrant. Fortunately that advise, which I don’t understand, did not alter the situation in any manner. I don’t believe the troopers would have had him arrested (either by them or the FBI agent) at that moment since he was in the process of writing out his confession. I’m sure the troopers were of the mind not to do anything to interrupt the flow of events since all was going their way.
In sum, it was a justifiable homicide conducted by an FBI agent who was working with two Massachusetts state troopers in a professional manner carrying on a proper investigation. There’s nothing I can see that leaves any doubt as to what happened. The physical evidence of the broom stick being under the body; the autopsy report; the bleeding head of the FBI agent; the text messages all corroborate the findings.
The couple of things that people will point to is that the FBI agent who did the killing refused to be interviewed. The agent making that choice and the FBI backing the agent up makes it look like they had something to hide. Then, as I mentioned starting off, the failure to quickly summarize what happened under circumstances where the only witnesses to the event were four law enforcement officers is totally inexplicable.
Well not totally, you must understand the first commandment of the FBI under which all agents fearfully operate is “Don’t Embarrass the Family.” No one in the agency dared get out in front by putting his or her name on any summary report. Thus it allowed questions to rise, speculation to abound and people to wonder why no one would answer why a man was shot dead. All of it could have been nipped in the bud in this case.
Perhaps the FBI can learn a couple of things from this. Long delay in making an official statement in and off itself is embarrassing leading people to believe something is wrong; and, it’s time to start recording interviews. As I pointed out in a recent post, recently the FBI’s reputation for veracity has taken a big hit in this country. Perhaps it should recognize that they way things were done under J. Edgar Hoover are not the way they should be done in the 21st Century. We’re in a day and age of instant communications and the FBI should come along with the rest of us. Being more responsive and less fearful might bring back the good reputation the FBI once had and which most of its hard working agents deserve.