One federal law enforcement official said the man, a professional martial-arts fighter, was shot after trying to grab the FBI agent’s gun. Two other officials said the man reached for a knife and was shot as he attacked the agent. All three officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because the episode is under official review.
The man was identified as Ibragim Todashev, 27, a former Boston area resident who knew Tsarnaev from martial-arts and boxing circles. Todashev had recently moved to Orlando from Cambridge, Mass.
Law enforcement officials said Todashev was not a suspect in the bombing. They said he was being interviewed about his possible role in a triple slaying in Waltham, Mass., in September 2011. They said Todashev acknowledged involvement in the killings and also implicated Tsarnaev in what the law enforcement officials described as a drug deal that went bad.
The FBI provided few details about the shooting in Orlando and did not mention the Waltham slayings, but the bizarre twist demonstrated the extent of the ongoing investigation into the April 15 Boston Marathon bombing, which killed three people and injured more than 260.
Dozens of FBI agents and other law enforcement officers have been conducting interviews across the United States and in Russia with associates of Tsarnaev and his brother, Dzhokhar, the other bombing suspect, to learn whether anyone else was associated with the Boston attack.
The interviews have focused largely on people from the northern Caucasus area of Russia, where Tamerlan Tsarnaev spent six months in 2012. The Tsarnaev family has roots in Chechnya, part of the restive region, and the FBI suspects that he might have had contact with Islamist militants there last year.
Reached Wednesday in the Russian republic of Dagestan, Anzor Tsarnaev, Tamerlan’s father, said that his son knew Todashev and that he believed the two had met while in the United States.
“All Chechens are like relatives,” the elder Tsarnaev said when told about the shooting in Florida. “This is all so sad.”
He questioned how Todashev could have been killed during an interrogation. “Why do they think they have the right to kill people?” he said. “It was a setup, like with Tamerlan.”
Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed in a shootout with police four days after the bombing. His brother was captured later that day and faces charges that could carry the death penalty. Before he was charged, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev told the FBI that no one else was involved in the plot and that he and his brother had acted out of anger over the U.S. conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.