BOSTON — A man in Orlando, Fla., who was being interviewed early Wednesday by law-enforcement officers about his ties to dead Boston Marathon bombing plotter Tamerlan Tsarnaev was fatally shot after he tried to attack the officers, according to a federal law-enforcement official.
Authorities said the Florida man admitted he and Tsarnaev had been involved in a triple homicide.
The officers — who included an FBI agent from the Boston field office and two Massachusetts state troopers — were questioning the man, Ibragim Todashev, 27, about whether he had played a role in the killings of three men on Sept. 11, 2011, in Waltham, Mass., in which the victims were found with their throats slit and sprinkled with marijuana.
The officers had been interviewing Todashev, a Chechen immigrant and former mixed-martial-arts fighter, in the Orlando apartment for some time when he tried to attack them, the official said.
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Investigators said they initially believed Todashev had used a knife, but later said it was unclear what he was holding when he attacked. The FBI agent was wounded and required stitches.
The shooting occurred in a condominium complex in Orlando less than a mile from an entrance to Universal Studios.
“The investigators were working on the theory that he and Tamerlan” had played a role in the Waltham killings, the official said, referring to Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who died after a confrontation with police in the aftermath of the marathon attack.
Authorities also believed Todashev had visited Tsarnaev in Boston before the April 15 marathon bombings that killed three and injured more than 260. Tsarnaev’s brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was arrested and charged in the blast.
In the past month, FBI and other law-enforcement officials have interviewed a wide range of people who were associated with the Tsarnaev brothers, from the Boston area to New Hampshire and Chechnya, and now in Florida.
One federal law-enforcement source said authorities had been talking to Todashev and other Chechen immigrants in the Orlando area for several days, and returned to the apartment Wednesday because Todashev was planning to return to Chechnya soon.
Near the scene of the shooting, Khusen Taramov, 22, who described himself as a friend of Todashev’s, told The Orlando Sentinel that Todashev knew Tamerlan Tsarnaev because both were mixed-martial-arts fighters. Tamerlan Tsarnaev was better-known for his boxing.
Taramov said Todashev had lived in Boston and had participated in bouts there with Tamerlan Tsarnaev, and that Todashev had last talked to Tsarnaev about a month ago by phone.
Since the bombing, Taramov said, the FBI had been questioning Todashev and had talked to Taramov.
One of the Waltham homicide victims, Brendan Mess, was a boxer and a friend of Tsarnaev’s.
According to a senior law-enforcement official, Todashev implicated himself and Tamerlan Tsarnaev in the Waltham slayings. “He had only said it orally but had not signed anything,” said the official, who declined to be identified.
It was not clear whether Todashev had said why the men had been slain.
Investigators, who are seeking to determine how Tsarnaev made money, have been looking into whether Todashev and Tsarnaev were drug dealers, the official said.
The official added: “They had been interviewing him for a couple of hours at the time that he attacked them. It was not a sudden occurrence that had happened upon them entering the apartment.”
Todashev’s home address is in Kissimmee, Fla.; it’s not clear why he was at the Orlando apartment or why he was being questioned there, said FBI Special Agent Dave Couvertier, a spokesman for the Orlando region.
An FBI post-shooting incident-review team has been sent from Washington, D.C., to investigate the fatal shooting, Couvertier said.