Unbroken FBI track record of clearing its agents who use deadly force leads to renewed calls for openness and accountability

CONTACT:           ACLU of Florida Media Office, (786) 363 – 2737 media@aclufl.org
Christopher Ott, ACLU of Massachussetts Communications Director, (617) 482 – 3170 x322 cott@aclum.org

MIAMI and BOSTON – Reports today indicate that investigations into the shooting death of Ibragim Todashev, who was killed in his Orlando home by law enforcement officers on May 22nd during a joint interrogation by FBI agents and local law enforcement officers from Massachusetts and Florida, clear the officers involved of wrongdoing. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida and the ACLU of Massachusetts had previously called for independent investigations of the shooting.

The following statement may be attributed to Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida:

“Whenever law enforcement officers take a person’s life, the public deserves an explanation of how that happened and why it is necessary. Today, the people of Florida and all fifty states are no closer to understanding why a man was killed at the hands of FBI agents in his Orlando apartment than they were the day it happened.

“The explanations from those who were present for the shooting death of Ibragim Todashev have been incompatible and inconsistent – did he threaten officers with a pole, a sword, a knife, a chair, his own hands? It remains a mystery how, based on the conflicts in what little information exists, one could accept that this killing was justified.

“It should be no surprise that when law enforcement agencies investigate themselves, they find no wrongdoing – especially since a study of the FBI’s internal investigations found that they cleared themselves of wrongdoing in 150 out of 150 fatal shootings. With that track record, the public can’t be confident in the integrity of an investigation with this predictable outcome.

“As we said when we first called for an investigation into Todashev’s death, secrecy fosters suspicion. The DOJ should have called for a truly independent investigation of the shooting, and they still can! There remain too many unanswered questions about what happened in that Orlando apartment last May. Until they are answered – until the public knows exactly how and why FBI agents and police officers walked into an apartment to ask questions and walked out with a 27 year-old in a body bag – we will not stop our calls for transparency and answers.”

The following statement may be attributed to Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts:

“Leaks by the FBI and a Florida prosecutor stating that they are about to release reports clearing a Boston FBI agent in the Florida shooting of Ibragim Todashev do little to address growing public concern about government secrecy and accountability. Unfortunately, it is no surprise that the FBI would exonerate itself. Last year, after examining an 18-year period in which FBI agents used deadly force against 150 people, reporter Charlie Savage of the New York Times found that the agency justified its agents’ actions in every single case.

“Here in Massachusetts, we are particularly concerned about the still-unaddressed involvement of Massachusetts State Police in the shooting of Mr. Todashev.

“We still don’t know what happened, nor why explanations from those who were present at the shooting death have been inconsistent, suggesting at various times that Mr. Todashev allegedly threatened agents, including with a knife, a pipe, a stick or pole, an agent’s gun, the deceased’s martial arts training, or even a Samurai sword.

“Even today, news has broken because of an FBI-friendly leak, rather than a full accounting of the facts.

“The ACLU of Massachusetts in July 2013 sent a letter to Attorney General Martha Coakley, calling on her to assign the state Civil Rights Division to investigate the role of the Massachusetts police in the shooting death of Mr. Todashev. She declined, saying she lacked jurisdiction, although it’s clear that the AG’s jurisdiction to investigate extends to wherever the State Police legally operate, acting in the Commonwealth’s name and on its payroll. Reliable reporting says two state troopers took part in the interrogation that ended in Mr. Todashev’s shooting death.

“Interest in the role of Massachusetts state police in the shooting death has grown following media reports that Mr. Todashev was about to sign a confession implicating himself and deceased Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsanaev in an unsolved triple homicide in Waltham on the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

“If their investigations are complete, the records supporting the FBI and Florida prosecutor’s conclusions should be made publicly available. When a law enforcement interrogation ends in death of the person in custody, the public deserves a full explanation. Nothing less than complete transparency will restore public trust.”

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