Suspect slain in Fla. in Marathon bombing probe was hot-tempered — arrested after fights with drivers in Boston and Orlando
Ibragim A. Todashev, the man shot to death in Florida by authorities investigating the Boston Marathon bombings, fought as a lightweight in the mixed martial arts sport in Florida and was quick to fight 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 Russian native to the ground when they were forced to step in between him and another driver following a crash in Boston’s Downtown Crossing.
“You say something about my mother, I will kill you!” Todashev shouted at the other driver, according to the police report in the case.
The 27-year-old Todashev was shot and killed in Orlando today while being questioned by FBI agents and two Massachusetts State Police troopers about Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev and the murders of three men in Waltham in 2011, according to the FBI and two law enforcement officials briefed on the investigation.
Before Todashev moved to Florida, he lived in the Boston area and was brought to an Allston gym where Tamerlan Tsarnaev trained as a boxer. Tsarnaev was a boxer, while Todashev was a mixed martial arts athlete, according to records and those who knew both men.
Both men trained at the Wai Kru gym, according to a spokesman for John Allan, owner of the gym.
“John said Tamerlan had actually brought this guy to the gym a few times and that they obviously knew each other,’’ said David Leigh, spokesman for Allan.
Allan considered Todashev to be a “hothead,” Leigh said.
The confrontation that ended with Todashev’s death was not the first time authorities investigating the Marathon bomb attacks had gone looking for Todashev.
Three days after Tamerlan Tsarvnaev was killed and his younger brother, Dzhokhar, was captured in Watertown, FBI agents stopped by a weathered, light green, two-unit house on Gordon Street in Allston.
Two agents, dressed in jeans and workboots, knocked on the door looking for Ibragim Todashev, recalled Paige Steinberg, who lives in the first-floor apartment. They showed her a picture of Todashev but did not provide his name.
They said only that he might have been friends with the Tsarnaev brothers but “not in a malicious way,” Steinberg said.
“‘Have you seen him? Do you know if he lived here?’” she recalled them asking.
The agents would come by again several more times in the next week, said Steinberg, a 22-year-old recent graduate of Emerson College. Once they asked her if she would look through the mail for any letters that might have been addressed to him.
Steinberg said she had lived in the apartment building since September 2011 and never recalled seeing him. The second-floor apartment, where he apparently lived, is a place for the transient, mostly foreign exchange students from Germany, Poland, or China.
The house, just off busy Cambridge Street, sits on a quiet residential road of multi-family homes, where long-time residents who carefully tend their gardens live alongside students.
According to Registry of Motor Vehicles records, Todashev was issued a Bay State driver’s license in 2009, one that lapsed in September 2012 when he did not renew it. During that time, he was cited for four traffic violations, including the event that led to his arrest in 2010.
Officers patrolling Downtown Crossing on a Thursday afternoon in February 2010 heard a radio call for a fight on Tremont Street just across from the Loews movie theater. They arrived to find several people struggling to hold back a slim, dark-haired man, later identified as Todashev.
The fight followed a traffic incident. Todashev, who was driving a food delivery van for work, argued with the driver of a red Mazda. He and the other driver pulled over in the area of 172 Tremont St., where Todashev allegedly cut off the Mazda and a third car, a blue Pontiac, forcing the Pontiac to slam into Todashev’s van, authorities said.
Todashev came running out of the van and started fighting with the Mazda’s driver and passengers, police said. When police arrived, they struggled to restrain and handcuff him.
He was charged with reckless driving, disorderly conduct, and civil infractions. The disorderly conduct and reckless driving charges were continued without a finding in November 2010 for nine months, the Suffolk district attorney’s office said. After the nine-month period ended, the charges were dismissed.
In Florida, on May 4 of this year, security at the Premium Outlet Mall in Orlando noticed a fight breaking out in the mall’s parking lot, followed by the departure of one of the combatants in a white Mercedez Benz, according to an Orange County Sheriff’s Department report.
Todashev was driving the Mercedes and was stopped at gunpoint by police, handcuffed, and brought back to the scene, where Deputy Larry Clifton wrote that he found one man lying unconscious in “a considerable amount of blood.’’
According to police, Todashev and Lester Garcia Baez had argued over a parking space and when the man’s son, Lester Garcia Perez, stepped in to protect his father, Todashev lashed out.
“Todashev began fighting with [Perez],’’ Clifton wrote. “Todashev said Perez came at him swinging. Todashev said he was only fighting to protect his knee because he had surgery in March.’’
When it was over, Perez had “a split upper lip, several teeth knocked out of place and head injuries,’’ Clifton wrote.
Clifton added that “by his own admission Todashev was recently a former mixed martial arts fighter. This skill puts his fighting ability way above that of a normal person.’’
According to a number of websites that follow the sport, Todashev made his debut as a pro in Tampa, Fla., in July in a bout with Bradford May. In a telephone interview today, May recalled his contest with Todashev.
Todashev, he said, was “eerily” quiet.
“He didn’t say a word to anybody, just kept to himself,” said May. “Normally you’d say hi to someone. I don’t think he said hi to anybody.”
Both fighters weighed in at 155 pounds for the contest.
Todashev won the fight when he caught May in a choke hold — called a “guillotine choke” — a legal move in mixed martial arts. It was apparently Todashev’s first professional fight. He likely made about $500, said May.
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.
It was not immediately known how Todashev injured his knee, but he was treated at Florida Hospital in Orlando on March 13, treatment that left Todashev owing the hospital $25,277, according to court records.
The bill was paid in full May 1, three days before the parking lot confrontation at the mall, according to court records.Mark Arsenault, Erin Ailworth, Andrew Ba Tran and Jeremiah Manion of the Globe Staff contributed to this report. Erin Ailworth can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @ailworth. Todd Feathers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @ToddFeathers. John R. Ellement can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.