Abdul-Baki Todashev, father of a Chechen immigrant Ibragim Todashev, who was shot dead by an FBI agent while being questioned about his ties to Boston Marathon bombings suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev, said Thursday that he regrets allowing his son to go to the U.S.
Ibragim Todashev, 27, was a mixed martial arts fighter who had trained with Tamerlan Tsarnaev in Boston, and his father said they had bonded because of their shared interests and heritage as Chechens from southern Russia.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, was killed in a shootout with police days after the April 15 terrorist attack.
Ibragim Todashev was killed Wednesday after an altercation with an FBI agent during a meeting with the agent and two Massachusetts state troopers at his home in central Florida. Law enforcement officers say that during the meeting, he had implicated himself in an unsolved 2011 triple murder.
Abdul-Baki Todashev said he was worried that with his son was dead, the FBI could now pin any crime on him.
“Out of fear of the lawlessness in Chechnya, I sent him to the U.S., because it seemed like the safest country at the time,” the distraught father told the Associated Press.
“Now I’m thinking about how to bring home his body. As it turns out I sent him to his death.”
Abdul-Baki Todashev said his son Ibragim, who has a previous arrest for aggravated battery after he left a man unconscious following a fight over a park spot, is “not capable” of killing anyone.
“There is a clear picture emerging that this is all fabricated,” Abdul-Baki Todashev told the Boston Globe.
“They killed my son and then they made up a reason to explain it.”
Friends and family members of the 2011 murder victims reacted to news of Ibragim Todashev’s alleged confession on social media.
On a Facebook memorial for victim Raphael Teken, the moderator of the page wrote: “Whether we ever know exactly what happened, there is one thing we surely know and that is that Rafi deserved a much better fate.
“He was funny, kind, joyful and generous.
“All of us that knew him knew [his death] couldn’t have been about anything he did, but are now horrified by what it may have been about.”
Facebook user Tony Porter wrote: “I’m disappointed that we will never really get to experience true justice for our friend or know the reasons for what happened despite the fact that both alleged suspects are now deceased.
“I don’t know how you are supposed to feel when your friend’s killer gets killed, but I don’t feel <<relieved>> like I thought I would.”
Moderators of a Facebook memorial for victim Erik Weissman wrote: “Hoping for some closure” and posted a photo of him with the caption: “Forever young, forever beautiful, forever in our hearts.”
A friend who said he went to high school with Erik Weissman commented: “That playful grin is the Erik that will live on in my memory… Let’s hope [this] represents at least a small step towards some kind of <<closure>> – if that even exits – for his nearest and dearest.”
Ibragim Todashev’s estranged wife, Reniya Manukyan, denied her husband’s alleged involvement in the 2011 triple murder, but she noted that he did travel back to Boston in the summer of that year.
He “had nothing to hide”, she told ABC News.
“He wasn’t involved. So he was not even nervous [to talk with the FBI].”
Reniya Manukyan and her husband separated in November. She said they lived in Atlanta before moving to Orlando in late 2011.
She also said that agents had questioned her several times and even stopped her at the airport when she returned from a trip to Chechnya several weeks after the Boston bombings.
Abdul-Baki Todashev said his son – the second of 12 children – was at university when he got an opportunity to go to the U.S. to study English about five or six years ago. He said he later agreed to his son’s request to remain in the U.S. “because it seemed like the safest country”.
Chechnya has been ravaged by two wars between separatist fighters and Russian federal troops since 1994, and remains troubled by periodic outbreaks of violence. The family’s red-brick house on the outskirts of Grozny, the Chechen capital, still bears the marks of shrapnel.
Abdul-Baki Todashev said his son gave up martial arts because of an injury and later held a number of jobs, including as a driver at a retirement home, before moving to Florida within the last year. The father said Ibragim had planned to come to Chechnya this week to visit his extended family, but was asked by the FBI to delay his trip.
Abdul-Baki Todashev said he had learned of his son’s death from a phone call from one of his son’s friends, who also had been questioned by the FBI. He said the friend, whom he didn’t name, told him that both of them had been pressured to confess to the murders, but that they were innocent.
The FBI gave no details on why it was interested in Ibragim Todashev except to say that he was being questioned as part of the Boston investigation. However, two officials briefed on the investigation said he had implicated himself as having been involved in a 2011 triple murder in a Boston suburb; investigators now suspect that Tamerlan Tsarnaev may have been involved in the unsolved crime.
Law enforcement officials believe, partly based on Ibragim Todashev’s alleged confession, that Todashev and Tamerlan Tsarnaev carried out the 2011 killings after a drug deal turned violent. The suspects didn’t want the three victims to be able to identify them, so they s**t their throats, sources told NBC.
Authorities had gone to Ibragim Todashev’s home late Tuesday with evidence suggesting that Todashev, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, and Tsarnaev’s younger brother, Dzhokhar, were involved in the 2011 killings, according to reports.
No suspects had been arrested in that case, in which three men were found in an apartment in Waltham, Massachusetts on the 10th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks with their throats cut and marijuana covering their bodies.
Massachusetts investigators had reported earlier this month that they were uncovering “mounting evidence” that Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his younger brother, Dzhokhar, were involved in the sl**ing. One of the victims, Brendan Mess, was a close friend of Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s.
Authorities said they have no reason to believe that Ibragim Todashev had any involvement in the Boston Marathon bombings.
The FBI has been investigating Ibragim Todashev for the last month, questioning him several times regarding his ties to Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who was killed by police in a shootout following the deadly April 15 marathon bombings. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, has been charged in connection with the bombings and is being held at a prison medical center outside Boston.
Khusen Taramov, a friend of Ibragim Todashev’s, confirmed that Todashev and Tamerlan Tsarnaev knew each other. He said they had been in contact via phone or Skype about a week before the bombings.
Ibragim Todashev was arrested in an unrelated incident on May 4 for aggravated battery after he left a man unconscious in the parking lot of a shopping mall.