Man wasn’t shot in back, community leaders say
The surveillance video of the fatal shooting of Usaama Rahim by members of an anti-terror task force shows that he was not shot in the back and was not on his cellphone, contrary to an account posted on Facebook by his brother, a community leader said Wednesday after reviewing it with law enforcement officials.
“What the video does reveal to us, very clearly, is that the individual was not on the cellphone. The individual was not shot in the back. And the information reported by others that that was the case was inaccurate,’’ said Darnell Williams, president of the Urban League.
Imam Ibrahim Rahim, Rahim’s brother, said in the Facebook posting Tuesday that Usaama Rahim, 26, was confronted by officers at a bus stop and was on the phone with their father when he was shot. Ibrahim Rahim also said his brother had been shot in the back three times by officers.
Authorities said Tuesday that a Boston police officer and an FBI agent, both from the Joint Terrorism Task Force, fired at Usaama Rahim when he approached them with a foot-long military knife in Roslindale. Authorities said officers backed away before firing bullets that hit Rahim in the front. Authorities promised to share surveillance video of the incident.
Williams said the group of activists and clergy who reviewed the video Tuesday were “hopeful for a level of transparency. That transparency was given.”
“We’re very comfortable with what we saw,” said Williams. He also said the video showed officers backing up before the shooting.
But he said a determination of whether the shooting was legally justified would be up to law enforcement authorities, not community leaders. “We can’t come to any conclusions as to what we saw,’’ he said.
Abdullah Faaruuq of the Mosque for the Praising of Allah said the video was “inconclusive’’ and that it was not clear to him that Rahim was armed with a knife, as authorities allege, at the moment he was shot.
However, Faaruuq agreed that it was clear that Rahim was not shot in the back and that officers were backing up.
“It wasn’t at a bus stop and he wasn’t shot in the back,” he said.
“However, we couldn’t see clearly at all exactly to answer the question whether he was brandishing a knife or not. It was like 1/20th of the overall frame. It was very far away. So we can’t be clear as to what transpired,’’ he said.
Faaruuq, who said he was speaking on behalf of the Muslim community, expressed gratitude to law enforcement for sharing the information. He said that in coming days, the community will be “quiet until we see how this thing unfolds.”
He applauded the inclusion of other community and religious leaders and the news media for paying attention to the situation.
“We have a lot of questions,’’ he said.
The shooting came at a time of national concern about police shootings of black men.
About two dozen community leaders, including both Muslim and Christian clergy, met with officials to review the video. The meeting was closed to the media, but those attending held a news conference afterwards.
Police Commissioner William B. Evans said at the news conference that the video clearly showed officers approaching Rahim with no weapons drawn. It also shows them retreating and — from witness accounts and officer accounts — ordering him to drop his weapon. They retreated for a “good 15 to 20 yards” before firing their guns, he said.
The video will not be released to the public at least until Rahim’s family have had a chance to see it for themselves, said Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley’s office, which is investigating the use of deadly force.
Conley, Police Commissioner William B. Evans, and US Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz were among the law enforcement officials who attended the screening, according to a pool report.
“The independent investigation into Rahim’s death remains ongoing under the direction of Conley’s office, as is the case with all fatal shootings, police-involved or otherwise, in the City of Boston. At the conclusion of that death investigation, the entire documentary file will be released to the media for further review, pursuant to Conley’s policy in police-involved fatalities. While there is no fixed timetable, that process generally takes several months,” Conley’s office said in a statement.
Rahim was plotting with another man, David Wright of Everett, to kill a police officer, according to two law enforcement officials briefed on the case. One official said they were plotting to behead an officer and were poised to act on Tuesday. Wright is slated to make an initial appearance in US District Court in Boston Wednesday afternoon.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, issued a statement Wednesday calling for an “independent and thorough” investigation into the shooting.
“It is our duty to question every police-involved shooting to determine if the use of deadly force was necessary, particularly given the recent high profile shootings of African-American men. We are asking for an independent and thorough investigation, public release of the video and transparency, not only about the killing of Usaama Rahim, but also about the basis of monitoring and surveillance, which had not resulted in probable cause for any arrest or search warrant,” CAIR National Civil Rights Litigation Director Jenifer Wicks said.