Just days before he was shot and killed by an FBI agent during an interrogation in Orlando, Fla., Ibragim Todashev telephoned his father in Russia to say he was coming home — after he met with law enforcement investigators to discuss the Boston Marathon bombings.
“He was supposed to be on a plane tomorrow, but he told me he had to meet with the FBI,” the father, Abdulbaki Todashev, said today in an emotional telephone interview from Grozny, Russia, in which he clearly struggled to understand the events that led to his son’s death.
The FBI said Todashev was shot and killed in his Orlando apartment after he allegedly lunged at an investigator with a blade while being questioned by at least one FBI special agent and two Massachusetts State Police troopers on Wednesday.
“My son is not capable of this,” Abdulbaki Todashev said of his son’s alleged attack on armed police officers. “He would never attack a police officer. He believed in justice, and perhaps this was his failing. He could not bear injustice.”
Asked how this trait might have prompted him to react Wednesday, Todashev said, “If they came to your house at night and bullied you for eight hours would you be able to keep calm? I think any person’s innate survival instinct would switch on.”
Todashev said that he has not been contacted by US authorities about his son’s death. He said he found out about the shooting from friends who saw the news on the Internet, and then spoke to Khusen Tamarov, a friend of his son’s who was watching TV with Ibragim before the agents arrived.
The father said Todashev, 27, did not tell him anything about his alleged role in an unsolved triple slaying in Waltham in 2011, a crime that the Globe reported today may also have involved Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
“If they suspected him for something, why did they give him a green card? There is a clear picture emerging that this is all fabricated. They killed my son and then they made up a reason to explain it,” the father said.
“If there’s an earthquake somewhere, they blame Chechens,” he said. “If there’s a flood in Africa, they blame Chechens.”
Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, and his younger brother, Dzhokhar, 19, ethnic Chechens like Todashev, allegedly planted two bombs on Boylston Street during the Marathon on April 15, a terrorist act that claimed the lives of three people and wounded more than 260. The brothers are also suspects in the April 18 slaying of MIT Police Officer Sean A. Collier, who was shot to death inside his cruiser.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed after being shot by police and then run over, according to police, by a car driven by his brother during a violent confrontation with police in Watertown on April 19. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is in federal custody facing charges that could bring the death penalty. He faces a July 10 probable cause hearing in US District Court in Boston.
Ibragim Todashev had lived in the United States since 2008, after arriving with a student visa. Two years later he was granted asylum, protection given to foreigners with a credible fear for their safety in their homelands because of religious, political, or other specific forms of persecution, the Globe reported today. This February, he was granted a “green card,” or legal permanent residence.
The US government has granted asylum to Chechens who fought in two civil wars that began when Russian forces entered Chechnya, a semiautonomous region in southern Russia, in 1994 to put down a rebellion by Islamic separatists. One former Chechen rebel living in New Hampshire who knew Tsarnaev was questioned by the FBI in the Marathon bombing investigation.
The current Moscow-backed leadership of Chechnya has been ruthless in prosecuting suspected separatists. But Abdulbaki Todashev, who is a department head in the mayor’s office in Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, said his son had no reason to fear repression or persecution in Chechnya.
“He was too young to fight in the war, and he has nothing to fear here now,” Abdulbaki Todashev said. “He would have faced no oppression here.”
Todashev said he moved his family out of Chechnya to Saratov province in central Russia during the worst of the fighting, and moved them back “five or six years ago.” Ibragim was studying English at Chechnya State University when he told his father in 2008 he wanted to study in the United States.
“He was a good student, he really loved English, and he went to the US for English practice,” the father said. He said that Ibragim had not been accepted into any formalized course of study, and understood that he was on an exchange program.
The father described his son as planning to return to a life he had made for himself in Florida after his trip.
“He hadn’t been home in five years and he was coming to visit,” Todashev said. “He was leaving his car, he wasn’t moving out of his apartment.”
Abdulbaki Todashev said Ibragim was the eldest of his 12 children, who include a sister who lives in Sweden.
Until his most recent conversations with his son about the FBI investigation, Todashev said his son had never mentioned his acquaintance with Tsarnaev. But the father said he was not surprised the two knew each other when Ibragim Todashev lived in the Boston area.
“Of course, they got together. You may not understand our ways, but wherever Chechens live, if we find other Chechens, we will meet with them, talk with them,” Abdulbaki Todashev said. “They were not close friends.”
As a mixed martial arts fighter, Ibragim Todashev, his father said, had inherited another Chechen tradition.
“Chechens are a nation of sportsmen. We are a warrior nation,” the father said. “Our men believe in being able to defend themselves and stand up for their loved ones.”
The father said he did not know his son had been involved in two violent altercations, one in Boston in 2010 and one in Florida on May 4.
Abdulbaki Todashev said his son was in Orlando recuperating from an operation on his meniscus during the April 15 bombings. He does not believe his son was in any way involved in the Sept. 11, 2011, murders of three men in a Waltham apartment.
Brendan H. Mess, Rafael M. Teken, and Erik H. Weissman were found with their throats cut and their bodies sprinkled with marijuana and cash. The crime has not been solved, but the Marathon bombings have drawn law enforcement scrutiny to Tsarnaev, who was friends with Mess.
The Globe reported today that the gun used by the Tsarnaev brothers during the Watertown shootout may have been stolen from a Waltham murder victim.
Middlesex District Attorney Marian T. Ryan issued a statement today defending the pace of the investigation, a statement that also made clear Ryan’s office believes it is constrained by ethics rules for lawyers from publicly discussing an ongoing investigation.
“While we can not discuss details pertaining to the investigation, including evidence, suspects or witnesses, this office and its law enforcement partners have conducted a thorough, far-reaching investigation beginning in 2011 when this horrific crime occurred,’’ Ryan said in the statement. “This investigation has not concluded and is by no means closed.”
The statement did acknowledge that the FBI is now part of the investigatory team, which also includes prosecutors and Waltham and State Police. The FBI does not routinely participate in murder investigations in Massachusetts.
Ryan said her office would not discuss the investigation with the public. “We can not comment on any details pertaining to that investigation, under the Massachusetts Rules of Professional Conduct for Prosecutors,’’ Ryan said.David Filipov can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @davidfilipov.