220px-Ibrahim_Todashev_Orange_County_booking_photoReports swept the web recently that Florida State Attorney Jeff Ashton cleared an FBI agent who shot and killed Ibragim Todashev, while questioning him about a cold-case triple murder connected to one of the Boston Marathon bombers.  The Boston Globe, the Associated Press, Slate, and the Washington Post all reported that two “unnamed law enforcement officials” with Ashton’s office told them that the FBI agent did nothing wrong.  27-year-old Ibragim Todashev was shot several times while being questioned in his Orlando home.  He reportedly had six gunshot wounds to the torso and one to the head.

The Washington Post reported that Florida officials concur with the FBI’s version of events that the agent acted in self-defense.

The paper wrote:  “The agent suffered a wound to the back of the head that required stitches. It’s not clear what first sparked the confrontation.  The investigation’s conclusion seemingly brings to an end a 10-month push by Todashev’s family and several civil rights organizations for more information…”

The FBI initially released very little information and their statements to the public were contradictory following the incident.

The Globe wrote:  “Anonymous sources have leaked conflicting accounts to the media, inflaming the controversy surrounding the death of Todashev. Some accounts said he was armed [a broom, pipe, sword, knife, etc.]; others said he was not.”

Jeff Ashton’s investigation is the only independent investigation into the shooting.  The FBI has already cleared their agent and a Justice Department Civil Rights Division investigation is also going to come to a close soon with the same conclusion.  The FBI has a nearly 20 year streak of finding all of its agents justified in fatal shootings, about 150 shootings.

The incident remains a mystery.  Officials first said that Todashev lunged at an agent with a knife while the FBI and Massachusetts State Troopers were questioning him about his association with Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev as well as a cold-case triple murder they suspect Tsarnaev of committing.  They also said that Todashev was about to fully confess before the incident.  Later, conflicting reports caused it to, as the FBI said, no longer be clear what happened.

In the case against Tsarneav’s brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who is charged with the Boston Marathon bombing, prosecutors have cited Todashev’s alleged implication that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was a participant in a cold-case triple homicide on Sept. 11, 2011.  The prosecutors were using this information in an attempt to block Tsarnaev’s defense from getting certain information from authorities.

Ashton’s office said that it has not made a final decision and denied sharing the decision with any other officials.

Samuel Walker, a criminal justice professor at the University of Nebraska, Omaha, who specializes in police accountability and use of force, said that most major police departments have a layer of review for police shootings, but with the FBI, shootings are rarely reviewed independently.

“It is my opinion that the FBI is still an insular organization. It’s not part of the municipal police. There has been some real progress there in terms of post-incident review in shootings. That’s what doesn’t happen with the FBI, and that’s what I think needs to happen,” he said, “The FBI is not a part of that world. They think they’re better, they are above that.”  He also said that for a law enforcement officer to be charged criminal for a shooting is extremely rare because “the standard is so high [for police shootings]…”

Jeff Ashton’s office said that he will be reviewing all materials and making his final decision no later than Monday or Tuesday.

“The release of purported information is inaccurate and unfair to Mr. Todashev’s surviving family…it also contravenes and frustrates all of the efforts to date by…the FBI, DOJ, and this office…”

Ashton went on to say, “until I sign a letter…no decision is final.  Whoever leaked that really needs to be addressed by their agency…”

Howard Simon executive director of the ACLU Florida said, “The explanations from those who were present for the shooting death of Ibragim Todashev have been incompatible and inconsistent – did he threaten officers with a pole, a sword, a knife, a chair, his own hands? It remains a mystery how, based on the conflicts in what little information exists, one could accept that this killing was justified.  It should be no surprise that when law enforcement agencies investigate themselves, they find no wrongdoing – especially since a study of the FBI’s internal investigations found that they cleared themselves of wrongdoing in 150 out of 150 fatal shootings. With that track record, the public can’t be confident in the integrity of an investigation with this predictable outcome.”

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