Wednesday, 16 August 2017

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Orlando death during Boston bombing probe prompts new lawsuit

By Paul Brinkmann, For Orlando Sentinel, On 24 May 2017, Read Original

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The parents of Ibragim Todashev filed a new wrongful death lawsuit in Orlando against the U.S. government, two FBI agents and two Massachusetts state troopers, over the 2013 death of their son in his Orlando apartment.

Todashev, a Chechen national, was shot seven times by law enforcement officers, a month after the Boston Marathon bombing. Two FBI agents and two state troopers, all from Massachusetts, had gone to his home to question him about the bombing and a 2011 triple homicide in Boston.

According to the suit, the evidence from the shooting and the autopsy, doesn’t match the official account of what happened. Officers had accused Todashev of attacking them with a pipe, just after he agreed to sign a statement implicating himself and bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

According to the lawsuit: “After Todashev was dead, the agents tried to arrange the apartment to make it look like Todashev had picked up a metal tube to use as a weapon but failed to get Todashev's fingerprints on the tube.”

State Attorney Jeff Ashton’s independent review found that the FBI agent was justified in shooting the 27-year-old mixed-martial artist from Chechnya. It occurred at his apartment, 6022 Peregrine Ave. in Southeast Orlando, near the intersection of Vineland and Kirkman roads.

The family had put the government on notice two years ago that it intended to file a wrongful-death lawsuit. Todashev’s father, Abdulbaki Todasheve, and mother Zulla Todasheva, are represented by the Florida chapter of Council on American-Islamic Relations and its attorney Thania Clevenger.

“We’d given the government ample time to respond,” Clevenger said. “Unfortunately we didn’t receive a response.”

Todashev was already highly suspicious of the authorities when they arrived because he had already been cuffed and detained by them, “unlawfully”, on a previous occasion on April 21, according to the suit.

The suit says police had also cuffed and detained Todashev’s girlfriend, Tatyana Gruzdeva, on a previous occasion. When he agreed to meet agents at his apartment on the night of his death, Todashev had asked a friend to be there, Khusen Tamarov. According to the suit, officers told Tamarov to leave the scene and go to a bar, about an hour before the shooting.

Todashev was accused of being a friend of Tamerlan Tsarnaev. His family claims he only knew Tsarnaev casually because they worked out in the same martial arts gym in Boston.

Also named in the lawsuit is FBI agent Aaron McFarlane, who was in the apartment and allegedly shot Todashev. The Boston Globe had reported after the bombing that McFarlane had a troubled history as a police officer, having been the subject of two police brutality lawsuits and four internal affairs investigations at the Oakland Police Department in California, before he became an agent.

The other defendants are officers who went to the apartment that night, FBI agent Christopher John Savard, and Massachusetts state troopers Curtis Cinelli and Joel Gagne. Savard and Gagne weren’t in the room when the shooting occurred.

A Department of Justice investigation also found no fault with the officers, especially since McFarlane claimed Todashev injured him first: “The agent was understandably fearful when Todashev struck him with a coffee table and then, rather than attempting to escape, found a weapon, the metal pole, and aggressively charged the… trooper with it.”

Clevenger said the government has been very secretive, releasing no new information.

“There’s been very minimal information provided. They said there are videos of the questioning that night, but they haven’t released that,” Clevenger said.