Orlando man fatally shot by FBI was suspect in 2011 triple slaying in Waltham, along with Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev
By Maria Sacchetti, Michael Rezendes, Wesley Lowery, Maria Cramer and John R. Ellement, Globe Staff
A Chechen man with ties to Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev was shot and killed by an FBI agent in Orlando.
A Chechen man with ties to Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev was shot and killed by an FBI agent in Orlando while he was being questioned about his possible involvement in an unsolved triple homicide in Waltham, according to two law enforcement officials with knowledge of the investigation.
The FBI announced that the person shot and killed early today was Ibragim Todashev, 27.
Two Massachusetts State Police troopers were also participating in questioning Todashev “in connection with the Boston Marathon bombing investigation” at the time of the fatal shooting, the FBI said. State Police spokesman David Procopio had no comment.
Todashev was a suspect in the 2011 triple slaying in Waltham, a crime that authorities now suspect may have also been committed by Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the two law enforcement officials said.
The Waltham victims’ throats were slashed and marijuana was sprinkled over their bodies when they were slain on Sept. 11, 2011. The officials said authorities had questioned Todashev about the killings during a series of interviews in recent days. “Both Tsarnaev and Todashev were suspects in the murders,’’ one of the officials said.
Todashev attacked the officers in Florida today with a knife, according to two other sources with knowledge of the investigation. One of those sources said Todashev had implicated himself in the triple homicide.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev was a close friend of one of the Waltham victims, Brendan H. Mess. 25. Also killed were Rafael M. Teken, 37, and Erik Weissman, 31.
The Globe has reported that after the Marathon bombing attacks, authorities began probing Tsarnaev’s alleged role in the Waltham killings.
Todashev, like Tsarnaev and Mess, was a mixed martial arts fighter, according to acquaintances and public records.
Todashev came to America from Russia several years ago to study under a J-1 visa, which is designed to promote cultural exchange by granting foreigners temporary permission to study or work in the United States, according to several law enforcement officials with knowledge of his background.
According to the State Department’s website, J-1 visas aim to foster “global understanding” through cultural and educational exchanges. More than 170,000 foreigners work, teach, or study in the United States every month through the program.
However, 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 forms of persecution.
Todashev obtained a green card in February, 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, according to the officials.
In March, Todashev was issued a Florida driver’s license. He reported living in Kissimmee, Fla.. He had no blemishes on his Florida driving record. He was issued a Massachusetts driver’s license in 2008. His record includes citations for speeding, failing to stop for police, and failing to keep to the right.
Todashev fought as a lightweight mixed martial artist in Florida and was quick to tangle with others he disagreed with, according to public records and some who knew him.
On May 4, Todashev was arrested in Orlando after a heated dispute over a mall parking space with a father and his adult son ended with the son lying in a pool of blood, his teeth loosened by the blows Todashev delivered, according to a police report.
And in Feburary 2010, police had to wrestle the wiry young man to the ground when they were forced to step in between him and another driver following a crash in Boston’s Downtown Crossing.
Mike Lee, co-owner of The Jungle, an Orlando gym, said today that Todashev had belonged to the gym about a year and a half ago.
“He was entirely unmemorable,” he said.
Lee said Todashev didn’t use the gym’s coaches or banner for his fights, just the equipment. Lee believes Todashev had paid the gym membership in full and had no outstanding bills.
Todashev was not considered to be a suspect in the Marathon bombings allegedly committed by Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his younger brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who is in federal custody and is facing possible death sentence.
The bombings on April 15 near the Marathon finish line killed three people and wounded more than 260. MIT Police Officer Sean Collier was also allegedly murdered by the brothers.
According to the FBI and local news accounts, the fatal shooting of Todashev happened in an apartment on Peregrine Avenue in Orlando.
“The agent along with two Massachusetts State Police troopers and other law enforcement personnel were interviewing an individual in connection with the Boston Marathon bombing investigation when a violent confrontation was initiated by the individual,’’ the FBI said in a summary of the incident released around 10:30 a.m.
“During the confrontation, the individual was killed and the agent sustained non-life threatening injuries,’’ the FBI said. “As this incident is under review, we have no further details at this time.”
Khusen Taramov, a friend of Todashev, told WESH-TV in Orlando that both he and Todashev were questioned about his ties to Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who was killed after a shootout in Watertown with police on April 19.
The FBI said today that a Washington-based deadly force investigative team was being sent to Orlando to investigate the shooting on Peregrine Avenue.
Taramov said he was released by the FBI, but Todashev was still being questioned by the agents.
Taramov said Todashev met Tsarnaev when both lived in Massachusetts, and that the two men spoke with each other “months before” the Marathon bombings.
Taramov said his friend was not close to Tsarnaev. “They were not best friends,’’ Taramov told the Orlando station.
Taramov insisted that Todashev was not a radicalized Muslim, and that he had no role in, nor did he know anything about, the Marathon terrorist attack.
“He was not a radical. He was a Muslim,’’ Taramov said. “I’m a Muslim. That’s it. … He never had a gun. … He was shocked’’ by the attacks.
Taramov said Todashev was worried about the direction of the questioning by the FBI agents, that he was going to be “set up’’ by the law enforcement agency.
“He had a bad feeling,’’ said Taramov, who quoted Todashev as telling him that the FBI was “making up this crazy stuff’’ that there was a connection between the terror suspect and him.
Taramov said that Tsarnaev and Todashev spoke recently, likely via Skype, but had only limited contact with each other since Todashev had moved to Florida.