The American Civil Liberties Union is urging state officials in Massachusetts and Florida to conduct their own probes into the fatal shooting of a Chechen man by a Boston FBI agent, saying it was “unlikely” an FBI investigation would fully inform the public about the death.
The FBI and the Department of Justice are conducting an internal inquiry into the May 22 shooting of Ibragim Todashev, a 27-year-old Russian national who was being questioned in his Orlando apartment by the FBI and the Massachusetts State Police because of his friendship with suspected Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
ACLU officials today, two months after the shooting, wrote to Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley and Florida Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald M. Bailey to urge them to investigate as well. The group said states should investigate because of the secrecy surrounding the FBI’s inquiry and because state and local law enforcement were also at the scene.
“When something goes wrong during an operation involving Massachusetts law enforcement officers, Massachusetts residents deserve a thorough and transparent investigation by Massachusetts officials,” Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts, said in the letter to Coakley.
The letter said that “it seems unlikely that the FBI investigation will meaningfully inform Massachusetts residents about what happened.”
A similar letter was sent to Bailey in Florida.
Unlike past FBI shootings documented by the Globe, the FBI and the Justice Department, which oversees it, have kept the Todashev investigation shrouded in secrecy.
Two months later, the FBI has not provided a full accounting of the shooting. Instead, conflicting reports based on anonymous sources have appeared in the media, saying Todashev was armed with a blade, or unarmed, or that he attacked the FBI agent with a metal pole or perhaps a broomstick. The FBI has said the agent was injured.
The FBI has also barred the medical examiner in Florida from releasing the cause of death. And federal immigration officials have detained Todashev’s former roommate, and a potential witness in the case, Tatiana Gruzdeva , for immigration violations.
ACLU officials pointed out that The New York Times recently discovered that the FBI’s internal investigations of shootings by FBI agents, even when overseen by the Justice Department, almost always clear the agents of wrongdoing.
Typically, the newspaper found, the FBI investigation is the only inquiry into a shooting by an agent.
But state and local investigations are not unprecedented. Following the 2009 shooting of a Detroit imam by the FBI, the state attorney general and local police conducted their own investigations, which found the shooting was justified.
Todashev’s family and friends, as well as the ACLU and the Council on American-Islamic Relations, have called for an independent investigation into the slaying.