For Immediate Release
ACLU Calls on State Officials to Launch Independent Investigations into FBI Shooting Death of Ibragim Todashev
Role of Massachusetts State Police and Orlando PD Should be Focus in Shooting Death of Man Linked to Boston Marathon Bombing Suspect & Waltham Triple Homicide
BOSTON and ORLANDO - The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Massachusetts and ACLU of Florida today called upon officials in their respective states to conduct independent investigations into the shooting death of Ibragim Todashev, who was killed by law enforcement officers on May 22nd during a joint interrogation by FBI officials and local law enforcement officers from Massachusetts and Florida.
In a letter to Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, the ACLU of Massachusetts urged the AG to assign the state Civil Rights Division the task of investigating the role of Massachusetts State Police in the shooting death. The ACLU of Florida simultaneously issued a request to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) to conduct an investigation into the role of Orlando police officers in the incident.
Two Massachusetts state troopers, along with Orlando police officers, were present with FBI officers during the interrogation of Todashev at his home in Orlando, Florida on May 22 during which he was shot to death. There are conflicting reports as to whether the Massachusetts troopers were in the room at the time of the shooting and whether their purpose at the interrogation was to investigate the Boston Marathon bombings, a 2011 triple-homicide in Waltham, or something else. The role of the Orlando police officers is even more unclear.
Notwithstanding the involvement of state personnel in questioning Todashev, and an earlier call by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) for an independent investigation into the shooting death, public reports indicate that the only investigation into Todashev’s shooting is being led by the FBI.
The FBI’s approach, meanwhile, has fostered widespread public distrust. Immediately after the shooting, the FBI released a statement claiming that Todashev had initiated “a violent confrontation,” and press reports cited anonymous law enforcement officials who made statements seemingly in support of that claim. But subsequent statements have offered contradictory reports. Initially, it was reported that either an FBI agent or another law enforcement official shot Todashev after he attacked an FBI agent with a knife or other sharp object. Then new stories emerged, asserting that Todashev lunged at the FBI agent with a metal pole or broomstick, or that Todashev overturned a table, or that he was actually unarmed.
“A person was shot and killed at the hands of law enforcement in Florida. That alone should require Florida officials to investigate, and explain to the public what happened,” said Howard Simon, ACLU of Florida Executive Director.
“Florida officials are simply deferring to the FBI, allowing the FBI to investigate itself, but it is difficult to accept the FBI’s honesty in this matter. The FBI has offered completely incompatible explanations, they have failed to explain how these inconsistent stories found their way into newspaper accounts of the shootings, and have not offered any clarifying comment about what really happened,” Simon added. “Due to the widely varying explanations that have surfaced about the shooting and the involvement of Massachusetts and Florida law enforcement, officials in both states should conduct their own investigations.”
Public skepticism in the FBI’s ability to investigate itself was heightened when the The New York Times reported on June 19 that public records obtained through litigation showed that between 1993 and 2011, F.B.I. agents fatally shot an estimated 70 “subjects” and wounded about 80 others, but that FBI internal shooting investigations deemed every one of those episodes to be “justified.”
“Recent disclosures in The New York Times show that FBI shooting investigations, even when carried out with ostensible oversight of both the Justice Department’s inspector general and the Civil Rights Division, virtually always clear the agency of wrong-doing,” said Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts. “Secrecy surrounding the FBI’s investigation of the Todashev shooting has deepened the public’s mistrust.”
Already in this investigation, the FBI has gagged the medical examiner from divulging the cause of death, the federal government has taken steps to detain and press for the speedy deportation of a potential witness in the investigation of the shooting, and, to the best of our knowledge, the FBI’s final report will be classified.
“An independent investigation is necessary to maintain public confidence in law enforcement and get to the bottom of the events surrounding Todashev’s death,” she added.
Todashev’s shooting death also raises concerns regarding accountability for local police assigned to the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) program, which the ACLU and other civil liberties groups have voiced for years. According to news reports, at least one of the Massachusetts state troopers was assigned to the regional JTTF.
“Since 2001, the number of local law enforcement officers assigned to the JTTF has more than quadrupled,” said Rose. “Yet the citizens of the various states who pay their salaries have no idea how they are supervised or even what, precisely, they are doing. It’s time to impose some accountability on local law enforcement who are assigned to FBI-JTTF operations in general.”
A copy of the letter ACLU of Florida letter is available here: http://aclufl.org/resources/letter-to-florida-department-of-law-enforcement-regarding-the-death-of-ibragim-todashevpdf/
A copy of the letter ACLU of Massachusetts letter is available here: http://aclufl.org/resources/aclu-of-massachusetts-letter/
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