The Other Florida Shooting
Guest column by Hugh Turley
In May, just 25 miles from the Florida town where Trayvon Martin was shot, 27-year-old Ibragim Todashev (pronounced Ih-brah-HEEM To-DAH-shev) was killed in his Orlando apartment during an interrogation by federal and state law-enforcement officials.
Reni Manukya, TodashevÕs widow, has said the FBI arrived at 7:30 p.m. on May 21 to question her husband about a possible link to Boston bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev. In the wee hours of May 22, Todashev was shot seven times, including what his father, Abdulbaki Todashev, called Òan execution-styleÓ shot to the head, by an FBI agent.
The father plans to file a civil suit against the FBI. Good luck. My friend Patrick Knowlton tried to sue the FBI for grand jury witness intimidation and he could not find a judge all the way to the Supreme Court who would allow his case to proceed.
On July 22, the ACLU called for an independent investigation. Since law-enforcement officers from Massachusetts and Florida were present at TodashevÕs death, attorneys asked state officials to launch investigations. They declined.
The other officers present, as well as myriad official sources quoted in news reports, and the shooter have not been named. Senior law enforcement officials have leaked to the press ÒfactsÓ to assassinate the character of the victim saying he was Òthe aggressor,Ó ready to confess to a triple murder, and was once charged with road rage. The public has a right to know the name of the shooter, in case he would come to other homes to Òask questions.Ó
The FBI, which is handling the only investigation into TodashevÕs death, has blocked the Florida Medical ExaminerÕs Office from releasing the official report on the cause of death.
Quoting anonymous senior law enforcement officials, news outlets reported that Todashev was being questioned about Tsarnaev, whom he apparently knew from working out at the same Boston gym. Some law enforcement officials reported that the interrogation concerned an unsolved triple homicide in Waltham, Mass. on September 11, 2011.
Depending on which published account you read, at some point during the questioning Todashev attacked the FBI agent with an object, a knife, a sharp object, a metal pole, a broomstick, an overturned table, a samurai sword, or some kind of weapon. In other reports, he was unarmed.
CBS News senior correspondent John Miller said, Òaccording to people IÕve spoken to,Ó moments before the shooting, Todashev was Òwriting out on a pad his involvement in the triple murder.Ó Before joining CBS, Miller was an assistant director of public affairs for the FBI. Why should anyone believe John MillerÕs unnamed sources?
Michael German, senior policy counsel in the American Civil Liberties UnionÕs legislative office, spent 16 years as an FBI agent. Now, he says, Òwhat needs to happen, because so much contradictory information has been released, is an independent investigation.Ó
We might consider: From what, exactly, should an independent investigation be independent? The answer: the government.
The U.S. Constitution provides for an independent investigation in the Fifth Amendment, which states that ÒNo person shall be held to answer for a capital crime or otherwise infamous offense, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury ... nor shall any person ... be compelled in a criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.Ó
The original grand jury panel of citizens was truly independent of the government, without any federal prosecutor in the grand jury room. But in 1946, the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure placed the grand jury under the governmentÕs control. Only by restoring its original independence can an independent investigation by citizens determine if Todahshev was being compelled to be a witness against himself and deprived of his life by government agents.