Who was Ibragim Todashev?
Was he connected in a meaningful way to the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings? Did he play a role in the brutal murders of three people in Massachusetts who had their throats slashed?
Or was he, as his friends contend, a good guy who just happens to be Chechen — and for that reason had attracted the attention of federal authorities?
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Orlando, FL, USA
Todashev was shot to death by a Boston FBI agent in an Orlando condo while being questioned about his connections to the Boston Marathon bombing suspects and a triple-slaying in Waltham, Mass. in 2011, federal law enforcement authorities said. Federal officials said he lunged at the agent with a knife during questioning, and the agent opened fire.
Little is known about Todashev — who federal sources said was in the U.S. legally — aside from the few details that emerged Wednesday through law enforcement, public records searches and interviews with friends.
Todashev, a mixed martial arts fighter, knocked a stranger unconscious in a bloody fight over a parking space at the Premium Outlet Mall earlier this month and was arrested on aggravated battery charges.
And a former training partner of Todashev's from Boston described him as "an incredibly gifted athlete" — with a temper.
But his close friends say the 27-year-old was a good guy, and emphatically deny he had any involvement in extremist activity. Instead, they say, federal agents zeroed in on Todashev in the days following the April 15 Boston bombings — and never relented.
The FBI questioned Todashev at least five times in person plus numerous times by telephone since the bombings, according to interviews with three of his four former roommates in a duplex at Orlando Sun Village in Osceola County.
They told the Orlando Sentinel the interviews and surveillance began two days after two Chechen brothers — 26-year-old Tamerlan and 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev — were identified as the suspected bombers.
"They pretty much kidnapped him in front of his place," said 22-year-old Khusen Taramov.
The three friends said all of them — including Todashev — shared the same sense of outrage over the bombing in Boston. And none had heard of a triple-murder there a couple of years ago in which their friend was allegedly a suspect, they said.
None of the roommates considered Todashev a political or religious radical, saying simply that he was faithful to their shared religion.
"We're born Muslims. What's the problem?" asked Muslim Chapkhanov, 29, a long-distance trucker from Chicago who stays with his Chechen friends in Kissimmee whenever he has deliveries in Central Florida. "Some people are born Christians. We're Muslims."
It's not clear whether Todashev lived in the Orlando condo where he was shot early Wednesday. He has an address in Kissimmee, but friends there said Todashev's girlfriend lives in the Orlando complex and he stayed there frequently.
According to court documents in the battery case from earlier this month, deputies knew immediately that Todashev was some kind of mixed martial arts fighter and knew "how dangerous these men can be," a report said.
"I told this subject if he tried to fight us I would shoot him," one deputy wrote in a report.
Todashev's Boston training partner — who asked not to be identified for fear of retribution — told the Sentinel Wednesday that he knew him as "Ibrahim Tody" because that was the name he used when fighting. It's also the name listed on his official MMA record.
The training partner said that the FBI contacted him after the bombings last month and asked about Tamerlan Tsarnaev, Todashev, and any other Chechens that had trained at the gym.
The man said Todashev frequently got into fights with people outside the gym and verbal disputes with other members.
"I never had any problems with him personally," the training partner wrote in an email. "But hearing that he was picked up for fighting over a parking space in Florida...comes as NO surprise."
The training partner said Todashev had been kicked out of several gyms for getting into altercations on the street — which he described as "a major, MAJOR no-no for people involved in Martial Arts."
According to staffers at The Jungle MMA and Fitness on East Colonial Drive in Orlando, Todashev was a member of the gym for about two months in 2012 but was "not memorable at all."
Todashev's last documented MMA fight was in July 2012 at the Real Fighting Championships in Tampa. He won against fighter Bradford May of Spring Hill in Hernando County.
Florida state records show Todashev was issued a Mixed Martial Arts license on Aug. 14. That license, which is required to participate in an MMA event in Florida, expired Dec. 31.
Todashev was also issued a Federal Identification number for Mixed Martial Arts on Aug. 14. That is good through Aug. 17, 2016, and that federal license is required to participate in MMA matches, according to the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.