KISSIMMEE -- Ibragim Todashev, the Chechen martial-arts fighter killed by an FBI agent in Orlando on Tuesday, was a bit of a mystery to his neighbors in his modest gated community in Kissimmee.
They knew little about his lifestyle, his travels or his relationship with one of the two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing.
They did know him as the kind of guy who helped neighbors in the multi-ethnic Sun City Village bring in their groceries, bought a fishing rod for the three-year-old daughter of his next-door neighbor and practiced his kick-boxing in the grassy area next to the community pool as children watched. To them, the portrait painted by police of a hot-tempered bully and cold-blooded killer was a surprise.
“He was very helpful, very nice, never disrespected women,’’ said Jessica Porteneur, a Sun City Village neighbor, who said Todashev lived in the community about two years.
Police say Todashev, 27, was shot by an FBI agent when he attacked them with a knife or another object during an interview at an Orlando condominium.
He confessed, they say, to the brutal stabbing murders of three men in Waltham, Mass., on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and he implicated Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev in the killings.
Then, police say, he lunged at a police officer with a knife and was shot dead.
The turn of events has many of his former neighbors suspicious — of both police and Todashev — and has left several of his Chechen friends and roommates in disbelief, and fear.
“I don’t believe nothing,’’ said Muslim Chapkhanov, 29, one of Todashev’s roommates who was the first of the close-knit group of Chechens to emigrate to the U.S. in 2006. “It’s easy to say these things now that he’s dead. Before, I felt safe here. Now, I feel way in danger.”
Chapkhanov, who works as a long-haul trucker, said he came home Wednesday to discover his friend was dead at the hands of police.
He told the Herald/Times that, from the time the FBI had aggressively questioned Todashev after the Boston bombings — when investigators found Todashev’s phone number in Tsarnaev’s cell phone — “Ibragim was very scared.’’
On Monday, Todashev gave one of the roommates his parents’ number, Chapkhanov said. “He said, ‘If anything happens to me, call them.’”
Chapkhanov told the Herald/Times that many of Todashev’s other Chechen friends now believe the FBI “came from Boston to kill him” and set up the interview to frame him for crimes they are convinced he did not commit.
“He just got his green card two months ago,’’ he said. “Why would they give him a green card if he did this?”
Russell and Debbie Diaz, who live in the townhouse next door to Todashev and his roommates, said the news stunned them.
“Their door was always open,’’ Debbie Diaz said. “Why would someone with something to hide have his door open?”
Russell Diaz said he can’t believe that Todashev was involved in the brutal slaying outside Boston that left three men nearly decapitated and covered with marijuana. Diaz said he never saw Todashev use drugs or alcohol.
“He’s a good kid,’’ Diaz said. “He comes outside, smokes a cigarette, plays with his computer.”