Ibragim Todashev: Does the FBI Effectively Have a License to Kill?


After the FBI shot and killed Ibragim Todashev in May in relation to his alleged connection to the Boston bombing, the FBI pledged to conduct a proper investigation of the death. While the FBI claims its investigations are effective and time-tested, Charlie Savad and Michael S. Schmidt of the New York Times say "their outcomes are also predictable."

In May, Ibragim Todashev, an old friend of deceased Boston Marathon bomber Tamalan Tsarnaev, was shot and killed by an FBI agent in Orlando, Florida. He was reportedly being interrogated the Boston bombing and also about his possible role in a triple murder, tied to drugs, in Waltham, Massachusetts. He allegedly grabbed a pole and lunged at the agent, who responded by fatally shooting Todashev.

The New York Times reports that from 1993 to early 2011, FBI agents fatally shot about 70 "subjects" and wounded about 80 others — and "every one of those episodes was deemed justified, according to interviews and internal FBI records."

Of the 289 deliberate cases of shots fired, most of which did not hit a target, five were deemed "bad shots," none of which hit anyone. The five "bad shoots" included warning shots, and shots while in pursuit and during demonstrations. A "bad shot" is the use of a weapon out of compliance with the bureau policy, which allows deadly force if agents fear that their lives or those of fellow agents are in danger. And in these cases, punishment only meant adding letters of censure to agents' files.

Critics say that the fact that the so few cases were deemed "bad shots," including none of the cases involving shooting a person, should raise questions about the credibility of the bureau's internal investigations. They often point to the high-profile case of the 2009 killing of an imam in a Detroit-area warehouse, or the 2002 shooting in of a Maryland man that lead to a $1.3 million settlement, but no admission of a "bad shot."

Some are left wondering whether the FBI can be trusted to conduct the Todashev investigation, or if once again agents will be given a "license to kill" without repercussions.