Feature

Did authorities 'execute' a friend of Boston bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev?

Shifting accounts about the lethal shooting has led to accusations of murder

Last week, Ibragim Todashev, Boston bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev's friend, was shot dead by authorities during questioning. Now, his father has claimed that his son was needlessly and deliberately killed.

At a press conference in Moscow, Abdul-Baki Todashev said U.S. agents had killed his son "execution-style." Carrying photographs purportedly showing his son's corpse and its wounds, Todashev said authorities had murdered him.

"I have 16 photographs," he said. "I just would like to say that looking at these photos is like being in a movie. I only saw things like that in movies: Shooting a person, and then the kill shot. Six shots in the body, one of them in the head."

"I want justice. I want an investigation," he added. "They come to your house like bandits, and they shoot you."

The photos could not be immediately authenticated.

The press conference came one day after the Washington Post reported that law enforcement officials, contradicting earlier reports, said the younger Todashev was unarmed when officers shot him dead inside his Florida apartment.

From the Post:

One law enforcement official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation, said Wednesday that Todashev lunged at the agent and overturned a table. But the official said Todashev did not have a gun or a knife. A second official also said Todashev was unarmed.

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. [Washington Post]

Initial reports claimed Todashev — while being questioned about his connection to Tsarnaev and his potential role in a triple-homicide authorities believed Tsarnaev had committed years earlier — lunged at officers with a knife. But even then, there was some confusion about what exactly had happened. One anonymous law enforcement official told the New York Times Todashev had attacked with a "knife or a pipe or something."

Authorities said Todashev had confessed to the homicide and was about to write out a confession when he snapped. An FBI agent present for the questioning, who reportedly received stitches afterward, fired the lethal shots.

However, as The Atlantic's Conor Friedersdorf pointed out, subsequent accounts from law enforcement officials have gradually shifted. Some of those reports said Todashev either attacked with or tried to grab a samurai sword, or that he possibly tried to snatch away a gun in the room.

"At best, an incompetently handled suspect was given access to a weapon so dangerous it justified using deadly force in response," Friedersdorf said. "Perhaps that's all this is. Or perhaps it will turn out that Todashev was wrongfully killed. The facts known to the public are worrisome enough that an independent inquiry is justified."

The Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations has also called for an investigation, citing those inconsistencies.

"We're not accusing anybody of anything, but we do want to know how an unarmed man who had not been charged or convicted of anything was shot seven times, once in the head, and killed," Hassan Shibley, executive director of CAIR's Florida chapter, said.

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