FBI Shooting Inquiry
The Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI supports the findings of the FBI and a Florida State Attorney, who recently cleared an FBI Special Agent of wrongdoing in the 5/22/2013 shooting death of Ibragim Todashev in Orlando, Florida.
FBI Agents, like all law enforcement officers, know and accept that, at any given moment, they may be in life-or-death situations where the use of deadly force will be required. They do not seek out these encounters; they just come with the badge. Whenever an Agent has a reasonable belief that he, she, or someone else is threatened with death or serious bodily harm, the Agent is expected to use deadly force. The FBI’s deadly force policy is as complicated, and as simple, as that. Excellent firearms and legal training are specifically designed to prepare Agents for these difficult, split second decisions. FBI Agents are public servants who represent the metaphoric, thin blue line between good and evil, and they do not take their serious duties lightly. Evidence of this commitment appears on the walls of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, where the names of 36 FBI Service Martyrs are engraved. These are our fellow Agents who were killed in direct confrontations with adversaries.
As former Agents, we are honored to be among a select group of American citizens who have walked in the shoes of the men and women whose sworn duty it is to protect America from harm. We understand the meaning of a standard known as “reasonableness.” This requires that competent reviewers consider the perspective of a reasonable Agent on the scene of an uncertain and tense situation over the perspective of a disinterested observer. These are serious issues that should not be judged in the court of public opinion.
The facts and justification for every FBI shooting incident are carefully reviewed. In cases like Todashev’s death, additional, external judicial review is sometimes necessary. In this case, the FBI conducted its shooting incident review, and the Orlando, Florida, State Attorney’s Office also conducted an independent review to assure that the interests of justice were served. We respect the need for such review by appropriate internal and external authorities.
In recent weeks, both the FBI and Florida State Attorney Jeffrey L. Ashton announced their findings, after they independently reviewed the facts leading up to and resulting in the shooting death. Both announced that an FBI Agent and a Massachusetts state trooper were cleared of any wrongdoing. Finding that Todashev attacked the investigators with a pole, the FBI Agent acted reasonably in shooting Todashev until he no longer presented an imminent deadly threat. Todashev’s death was unfortunate, but we recognize and commend the FBI Agent for responding to this encounter with a trained response and at the appropriate level.
In his report, Ashton noted that Todashev attacked the investigators following a lengthy interview into a triple homicide that linked Todashev and Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Todashev had implicated himself in the murders and likely expected to be placed under arrest. In a highly charged, dynamic environment, Todashev, a skilled Mixed Martial Arts fighter, became physical and initiated several actions that threatened the investigators and wounded the FBI Agent, including throwing a table and brandishing a pole. The Agent shot Todashev several times because it was necessary to subdue him. Ashton further cautioned against judging the actions of law enforcement on that day “with the benefit of perfect hindsight and from a position of safety.”
President, Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI