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Shooting of slaying suspect Ibragim Todashev in Florida involved FBI agent from Boston office

Globe Staff  –  May 25, 2013

ORLANDO — An FBI agent from the bureau’s Boston office fired the shot, or shots, that killed a friend of Boston ­Marathon bombing suspect ­Tamerlan Tsarnaev early Wednesday morning during an interview about an unsolved Waltham homicide, say officials briefed on the investigation.

Ibragim Todashev, a 27-year-old mixed martial arts fighter formerly from Allston and Cambridge, was shot in the kitchen of his apartment after overturning a table and attacking the agent with a blade, the officials said. The Globe has ­reported that the shooting came after Todashev had implicated himself in a grisly 2011 triple homicide in Waltham. ­Tamerlan Tsarnaev was friendly with one of the Waltham victims, and authorities suspect he may also have taken part in the slayings.

Two law enforcement officials said that the Boston FBI agent felt he was in grave danger when Todashev attacked him and that he fired in self-defense.

“This was a tough guy; he was a dangerous individual,” one law enforcement official said, speaking of Todashev. The official asked not to be named because the official was not ­authorized to discuss the case.

An FBI team from Washington, D.C., is investigating what happened in the apartment.

FBI spokesmen in Boston, Florida, and Washington had no comment Friday.

Some of Todashev’s neighbors recalled hearing a series of loud bangs during the early morning hours Wednesday. But loud sounds after dark are commonplace at the condos, which sit in the shadow of Universal Studios, which holds frequent nighttime concerts and events.

“I figured it was just fireworks at Universal,” said Gary Campgana, who lives a few apartments away from ­Todashev, pointing to the amusement park.

Campgana said he had seen Todashev “at the pool a few times, but it didn’t dawn on me that he could have been capable of being involved in all of this.”

The regional medical examiner’s office confirmed that it is in possession of Todashev’s body but would not say how many times he was shot.

“We can’t release any information on that case,” said an employee of the office who ­answered the phone Friday. “Any info has to come from law enforcement.”

Todashev’s friend Khusen Taramov, who accompanied ­Todashev’s estranged wife to identify the body, said he was shown only part of his dead friend’s face and did not see any wound. But doctors told him his friend was shot multiple times, he said.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed after a shootout with ­police in Watertown April 19. His brother and alleged coconspirator in the Marathon ­attack, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, is in federal custody facing a possible death sentence in the bombing that killed three people and wounded more than 260. The brothers are also suspects in the April 18 slaying of MIT police Officer Sean Collier.

In Orlando, local police and FBI agents continued to keep watch over the scene of the shooting Friday, as investigators in white jumpsuits and yellow boots continued to move in and out of the apartment’s rear entrance.

Most of the reporters who had been camped at the scene since early Wednesday were gone, and life in the complex had mostly returned to normal.

Todashev’s wife, Reni Manukyan, who traveled to ­Orlando from her home in Georgia to help arrange her husband’s burial, plans to accom­pany the body back to Russia.

Taramov said Friday that Manukyan had been overcome by emotion. “She’s in really bad shape,” he said. “She’s not doing good at all.”

He also cast doubt on ­reports that his friend had violently attacked the agent, saying that Todashev was recovering from a knee injury and that agents had kept tight control over him at prior interviews.

“They wouldn’t even let him go outside to smoke during these interviews,” Taramov said

Taramov, who is helping coordinate the burial in Russia, said the FBI has yet to return Todashev’s identification ­papers, which has impeded the process of returning his body to his family. The bureau has said it will return Todashev’s travel papers and could hand them over as soon as Monday, said Taramov. However, he added, they told him it could take as long as three weeks.

“I’m hoping for three days, not three weeks,” he said.

Mark Arsenault can be reached at marsenault@globe.com. ­Follow him on Twitter ­@bostonglobemark.




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Waltham killings finally get some press, because FBI-Boston has some explaining to do

Note how this article leads with stories of Brendan’s alleged violent past, stories never reported before as far as I know.  Why is that?  Because, back in 2011 when Mess and his associates were killed, FBI-Boston and the CIA just wanted the triple-homicide to quietly disappear, to be forgotten about by the public.  Now, they need to demonize Brendan and his associates so that the public won’t much care that their 2011 killings were not vigorously investigated and their killers (Tamerlan, Dzhokhar, Todashev) never found.  The FBI/CIA hopes that the public and media just throw up their hands and shrug off the deaths of more violent drug dealers, violent immigrants, and violent terrorists.  But any aware onlooker should realize that, if Tamerlan had been arrested for these murders in 2011, the Boston Bombing Attack never happens.


By Michael Rezendes and Bob Hohler

May 24, 2013

On a Sunday afternoon in summer 2010, Brendan H. Mess, a close friend of Tamerlan Tsarnaev and a specialist in mixed martial arts, was walking along a Cambridge street when he came face to face with a police officer. The patrol­man was investigating a complaint that Mess, then 24, had attacked a group of people near Inman Square, breaking one man’s nose and leaving another with a bloody mouth.

Rather than cooperate, Mess began yelling at the officer, at one point saying, “I can knock you out if I wanted to,” according to the officer’s ­report. Soon, three additional officers arrived, and Mess was hit with a chemical spray, wrestled to the ground, and handcuffed.

Even then, police said, Mess continued threatening the officers.

A year later, Mess was dead, his throat slashed in a grisly triple homicide in Waltham on Sept. 11, 2011, that was widely assumed to be a drug deal gone bad and all but forgotten. But 18 months later it has burst again into the public eye, an international incident with links to the alleged Boston Marathon bombers, a man shot this week in Orlando, Fla., and a world of extreme violence they inhabited.

“This is an ongoing investigation, and clearly there are some very dangerous people ­involved in this whole series of crimes,” Boston Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis said Thursday.

Authorities now say bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev may have helped kill the three men, along with Ibragim ­Todashev, who was shot by an FBI agent after he allegedly lunged at the agent with a blade during an interview in Orlando.

“The Orlando questioning was focused on what happened in Waltham,” Davis said.

Little has been publicly known of the three men who were discovered in Mess’s apartment, where they had gathered to watch a football game. Investigators said they appeared to have been ambushed, their throats slashed and marijuana covering them.

Killed with Mess were Erik H. Weissman, 31, and Raphael M. Teken, 37. All three were ­familiar to police. Teken, who attended Brookline High School and Brandeis University and whose father, Avi Teken, is the spiritual leader of a Jewish congregation in Newton, had received six months of pretrial probation in 2005 after he was charged with assaulting a woman and maliciously damaging property.

Weissman, who, like Mess and Tsarnaev, attended Cambridge Ringe & Latin School, had run into deeper legal trouble. According to court records reviewed by the Globe, on Jan. 17, 2011, Boston police searched Weissman’s Roslindale apartment and seized more than $21,000 in cash, along with drug paraphernalia and a wide assortment of drugs, including marijuana, hashish, cocaine, and Oxycontin.

Weissman was also charged in 2008 with drug possession with intent to distribute after Boston police stopped him for traffic violations in Allston and found marijuana in his car.

Weissman’s lawyer, Norman S. Zalkind, said Weissman was not attempting to negotiate a plea deal by informing on other criminal suspects, which would virtually eliminate the possibility that the three men were killed as an act of retribution by a drug supplier who may have been involved with Weissman.

“We were working out a very positive situation for Erik; he had a very good case,” Zalkind said, adding that Weissman was challenging the legality of the warrant used to search his apartment. “He wasn’t afraid of any significant problem.”

Friends and relatives of the victims said the apartment was rented by Mess and that Weissman, after having his cash and drugs seized by the police, was staying there temporarily. ­Teken also lived in Waltham.

It has always been clear, author­ities say, that those who committed the killings were strong and skilled combatants. On their death certificates, Mess is listed as a martial arts instructor and Teken as a personal trainer. Yet the three men were overpowered and killed without a shot being fired.

Mess once challenged a person who tried to rob him at gunpoint in Cambridge, said a friend who witnessed the incident. Though the gun turned out to be fake, the friend said, Mess approached his assail­ant and said, “Pull the trigger. Do what you have to do.”

“Brendan was nobody to mess with,” the friend said. “He wouldn’t lay down and get his throat cut.’’

The Globe reported last month that friends and relatives of the victims began suspecting Tsarnaev of the homicides for a variety of reasons, includ­ing a change in behavior after the slayings. The killings also occurred on a date of great significance to jihadists.

Initially, neighbors of the victims said they were told by police that the killings were probably drug related. But some family members disagreed, as did Zalkind.

“With a drug killing, people come over and – bang, bang – it’s over,” Zalkind said. “They want to get out of there as fast as they can.”

It remains unclear whether authorities investigated ­Tsarnaev in connection with the killings before friends and family of the victims began calling Waltham police and federal authorities last month to report a possible link, after Tsarnaev and his brother, Dzhokhar, were publicly identified as the suspected Marathon bombers.

But there is no question about Tsarnaev’s ties to Mess, who had recently moved to Waltham from Cambridge at the urging of Mess’s girlfriend, Hibatalla Eltilib, according to friends and relatives of the victims who spoke with the Globe. Mess and Tsaernaev had grown close as neighbors near Inman Square, sharing a love of fighting, as well as hip-hop music.

Newly named Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan on Thursday said she would have no comment on any aspect of the investigation. But friends and relatives of the victims, in hindsight, said police should have examined the relationship between Eltilib, a native of ­Sudan, and Tsarnaev.

Although friends knew ­Tsarnaev to be Muslim, they did not consider him to be an ­extremist.

Eltilib, by contrast, was outspoken about her Islamic beliefs and disdain for many American values, friends said.

“She and Tam got really close and became friends,’’ said a friend of Mess, Tsarnaev, and Eltilib. “This was closer to ­Brendan’s death. They would share stories of their distaste for American culture. She was extremely aggressive and violent and had this radical way of thinking.’’

All the friends and relatives of the victims who spoke with the Globe asked for anonymity due to fear of retribution from a killer who might still be at large.

Eltilib has since returned to Sudan. Repeated attempts to reach her in recent weeks were unsuccessful. It is unclear when she left the Greater Boston ­area, but her departure mirrors those of Tsarnaev and Todashev, each of whom also left the area following the triple homicide. Tsarnaev visited ­Russia for six months last year, and Todashev moved to Florida.

Only in retrospect did Tsarnaev’s behavior after the killings become suspicious to friends and family of the victims. They say he was absent from Mess’s wake a week after the slayings. Friends also wondered why he was absent again the next day when hundreds of Mess’s friends and relatives gathered for a memorial service at Ryle’s Jazz Club in Inman Square, near Tsarnaev’s home.

Several friends said he also behaved strangely during ­encounters in the weeks after. No longer humorous and engag­ing, they said, he was aloof, and one longtime ­acquaintance said Tsarnaev suddenly acted as if he did not know him.

Maria Sacchetti of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Michael Rezendes can be reached at rezendes@globe.com; Bob Hohler at hohler@­globe.com.

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Ibragim Todashev killed by FBI agent in Florida

ORLANDO — Since the early days of the investigation into the Boston Marathon bombings, FBI agents have quietly scrutinized Ibragim Todashev, a professional mixed martial arts fighter with a violent ­record and a friendship with alleged bomber Tamerlan ­Tsarnaev.

But the scrutiny ended in bloodshed in an apartment complex near Universal Studios early Tuesday morning, where Todashev was shot and killed by an FBI agent ­after he allegedly attacked the agent in the middle of an interrogation.

During the questioning, ­Todashev acknowledged a role in an unsolved triple murder in Waltham, a brutal crime that law enforcement officials now suspect may also have involved Tsarnaev, said several officials with knowledge of the encounter. The interview with Todashev became heated and he lunged at the interrogator with a blade, the officials said. The FBI agent sustained “nonlife-threatening injuries,’’ the bureau said in a statement.

The bizarre turn capped weeks of investigator focus on Todashev, a Chechen native who lived until recently in ­Allston and Cambridge, since the April 15 bombing that killed three and wounded more than 260.

Friends of Todashev told the Orlando Sentinel that the 27-year-old had been questioned repeatedly by the FBI before the fatal encounter.

In Massachusetts, meanwhile, a resident of the two-unit house on Gordon Street in ­Allston where Todashev once lived said FBI agents came looking for him three days after Tsarnaev died in an April 19 shoot-out with police in Watertown.

Friends of Ibragim Todashev told the Orlando Sentinel that the 27-year-old had been questioned repeatedly by the FBI before the fatal encounter at his apartment.

Red Huber/Orlando Sentinel

Friends of Ibragim Todashev told the Orlando Sentinel that the 27-year-old had been questioned repeatedly by the FBI before the fatal encounter at his apartment.

Paige Steinberg, who lives in the first-floor apartment, said the agents showed her his picture.

“ ‘Have you seen him? Do you know if he lived here?’ ” she remembered them asking. The agents would come by again several more times in the next week, once asking her to look through the mail for any letters addressed to him.

Todashev, who was in the United States legally after receiv­ing asylum in 2008, had a reputation as a hothead and two weeks ago was arrested at gunpoint in Orlando and charged with a vicious assault that left the victim unconscious, with loose teeth and lying in a pool of blood.

Fighting was his passion: The 155-pound lightweight mixed martial arts combatant won his first professional fight last year with a combination of Russian Sambo martial arts techniques and a “guillotine” chokehold that subdued his ­opponent.

But a Russian news site quoted Todashev’s father, ­Abdulbaki, as saying he did not believe his son could have ­attacked law officers.

In a YouTube video sourced to RT.com, a news site that ­reports on global news from the Russian point of view, a speaker identified as Abdulbaki ­Todashev says that Ibragim also could not have been involved in the Marathon bombings ­because he was in the hospital, recuperating from knee surgery. “If he is not provoked, he is very calm and would never attack anyone,” he said in Russian.

Todashev is not considered a suspect in the Marathon bombings.

The Waltham slayings, carried out on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks — Sept. 11, 2011 — became a key focus for investigators, raising the possibility that Tsarnaev had turned to killing a year and a half before the Marathon bombings and opening the possibility that the attack could have been prevented if the case had been solved.

The slayings were shocking for their brutality and for the desecration of the corpses: The victims’ throats were slashed and the killers sprinkled marijuana over the bodies. Though some suspected the crime was drug-related, the perpetrator or perpetrators left behind thousands of dollars in cash.

Norman S. Zalkind, a veteran criminal defense attorney, said the bizarre nature of the triple homicide did not fit the pattern of most drug-related murders.

“In my experience, this is not the way it happens in drug deals,” Zalkind said. “It’s not this weird stuff. It’s shooting, and it’s over.”

Instead, the brutal slaughter of three fit young men on a day fraught with symbolism to ­Islamic extremists has prompted families of the victims to contact prosecutors recently about the possibility that ­Tsarnaev was involved.

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Tsarnaev, a championship amateur boxer, considered himself “best friends” with one of the victims, Brendan H. Mess, but he did not attend Mess’s ­funeral. In early 2012, Tsarnaev went to his native Russia for six months while, around the same time, Todashev relocated to Florida.

Since the bombings and the slaying of MIT police Officer Sean Collier three days later, the Middlesex district attorney’s office has begun investigating whether Tsarnaev and his younger brother and alleged coconspirator Dzhokhar ­Tsarnaev, in custody and facing a possible death penalty in the bombings, could have been ­involved in the homicides.

CNN reported late Tuesday that Todashev implicated ­Tamerlan Tsarnaev in the Waltham murders.

Law enforcement agencies are also investigating whether the handgun Tamerlan ­Tsarnaev allegedly used in the fatal shooting of Collier and in the frenzied shoot-out with ­police early the next morning was acquired from one of the three men killed in Waltham, according to several people with knowledge of the investigation who spoke with the Globe on condition of anonymity because the killer could still be at large.

The federal Bureau of ­Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives has been told by at least one person that ­Tsarnaev’s handgun may have come from the apartment on 12 Harding Ave. where the three men were killed, said one of the people who spoke to the Globe.

One of the three victims, ­Erik H. Weissman, may have ­resorted to selling guns because he had forfeited cash and a stash of drugs when his apartment in Roslindale was raided earlier in the year, said a second person who spoke with the Globe. “These guys looked pretty innocent, but they were pretty deep in it,” said one acquaintance of the victims who spoke to the Globe.

The shooting of Todashev in Florida Tuesday paralyzed the Windhover Condominiums, a set of two-story homes that surround a small pond. The complex sits just feet from the entrance of Universal Studios, down a quiet side street now captive to police barricades and television news vans.

FBI investigators have set up a white tent, surrounded by white and brown tarps, and evidence recovery teams have spent the day coming and going. Residents of the condo complex spent much of Tuesday outside as light rain trickled on a humid Orlando day.

“The guys at work aren’t going to believe this,” said one resident, as he pulled out of the complex around 6 p.m., wearing a Dominos Pizza uniform. “Never seen that guy before, but he lived two units away. Used to bum cigarettes off my wife.”

The man identified in the Russian news video as ­Todashev’s father, Abdulbaki, said that Tamerlan Tsarnaev and Ibragim Todashev were ­casual acquaintances who “just went to the gym together.” The video shows a picture of a man in a suit, with a caption that says the father is in Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, the semiautonomous region of southern Russia that is Todashev’s and the Tsarnaevs’ ancestral homeland.

Abdulbaki said that when Ibragim finished high school in Grozny, he asked his father to be allowed to go to the United States to study. “He said he liked it, can I stay here?” he said. “He said, I’ll come back in a couple of years.”

Todashev came to America from Russia several years ago to study on a J-1 visa, a program designed to promote cultural exchange by granting foreigners temporary permission to study or work in the United States, said law enforcement ­officials with direct knowledge of the information.

In 2008, the US government granted Todashev asylum, a protection granted to foreigners with a credible fear for their safety in their homelands ­because of religious, political, or other specific forms of persecution.

Todashev then obtained a green card in February 2013, making him a legal permanent resident and clearing the way for him to apply for US citizenship in a few years if he ­remained in good standing, said law enforcement officials with direct knowledge of the ­information.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested ­Todashev’s girlfriend, Tatiana Gruzdeva, May 16 on immigration violations, said a law enforce­ment official. An ICE spokesman confirmed that she is in custody.

The dates Todashev was living in the Boston area were not ­entirely clear Tuesday. He was listed as living on Harding Street in Cambridge in a 2010 Boston police report, when he was arrested following an altercation after a traffic accident on Tremont Street in downtown Boston.

He was cited twice for traffic incidents in Massachusetts in 2009 and once each in 2010 and 2011.

Todashev was issued a Florida driver’s license in March 2012, listing his address as 4502 Saint Georgas Court in Kissimmee.

In Florida Tuesday, two Massachusetts State Police troopers also participated in the questioning “in connection with the Boston Marathon bombing ­investigation” at the time of the fatal shooting, the FBI said.

Maria Sacchetti, Erin Ailworth, David Filipov, John Ellement, Todd Wallack, Sally Jacobs, ­Andrea Estes, Todd Feathers, Milton J. Valencia, and Bob Hohler of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Mark Arsenault can be reached at Marsenault@globe.com.



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Ibragim Todashev shooting: FBI trying to keep their stories straight.

According to federal law enforcement officials, the man was being interviewed about whether he and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the bombing suspect, were connected to a two-year-old triple slaying when he attacked an FBI agent. There were conflicting accounts of what happened in the moments before the man was shot.

One federal law enforcement official said the man, a professional martial-arts fighter, was shot after trying to grab the FBI agent’s gun. Two other officials said the man reached for a knife and was shot as he attacked the agent. All three officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because the episode is under official review.
The FBI provided few details about the shooting in Orlando and did not mention the Waltham slayings, but the bizarre twist demonstrated the extent of the ongoing investigation into the April 15 Boston Marathon bombing, which killed three people and injured more than 260.

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Ibragim Todashev Update

ORLANDO — The wife and best friend of the Chechen man shot and killed here by an FBI agent on Wednesday insisted today that authorities never questioned him, or them, prior to the fatal confrontation, about an unsolved triple slaying in Waltham, Mass., just outside of Boston.


Todashev’s wife, Reni Manukyan, said her husband could not have been involved in the Waltham murders, and that the subject had never been brought up in FBI interviews.

Manukyan, 24, said today that Todashev told her that his previous interviews with law enforcement dealt with just two subjects: the Boston Marathon bombing and Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

Manukyan, who separated from Todashev in November, said that in her own interview with the FBI, conducted in Georgia where she lives, the unsolved murders were never mentioned.

“It never, ever came up,” she said, wiping tears from beneath her sunglasses. “Everything they asked was about the bombing.”



Ibragim Todashev’s father, Abdulbaki Todashev:

Father of man killed by FBI agents in Orlando, Fla., says his son was not capable of attacking police

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