No charges in shooting of terror suspect in Roslindale
Prosecutors will not bring charges against the Boston police detective and FBI agent who fatally shot a terrorism suspect in Roslindale after the man allegedly walked toward investigators in an aggressive manner with a military-style knife.
Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley on Wednesday said the shooting of Usaamah Rahim, 26, in a busy parking lot by members of an anti-terror squad was justified.
In the June 2, 2015, episode near a CVS on Washington Street, Rahim advanced on police officers after drawing the 13-inch knife, Conley said. The officers backed up about 50 feet, while repeatedly ordering him to drop his knife.
Rahim said, “You drop yours,” and “Why don’t you shoot me?” when ordered to drop his weapon, Conley said.
“Facing an active, ongoing, and continuing threat to himself and to others,” the detective fired one shot, and the FBI agent fired two more, Conley said.
When investigators initially approached Rahim, he was speaking on his cellphone and told a relative, “Unfortunately, you will not be seeing me again,” according to a report on the shooting that Conley released Wednesday.
Conley said he had also briefed Rahim’s family on the findings of the investigation.
Ronald S. Sullivan Jr., a Rahim family lawyer, insisted during his own briefing outside Conley’s office that officers could have done more to avoid the deadly clash.
“Even if the public accepts the Commonwealth’s findings of fact, people of good will must wonder how the [authorities] could not de-escalate the interaction,” Sullivan said. “Fear of terrorism and allegations of wielding a knife do not authorize law enforcement to issue a death warrant in violation of our Constitution.”
According to Conley’s report, Rahim was under surveillance by a Joint Terrorism Task Force after investigators learned he and two co-conspirators planned to behead a specific target in New York City, at the behest of Junaid Hussain, an Islamic State militant. Hussain was killed in an airstrike in Syria in August 2015, the report said.
Rahim’s nephew, David Daoud Wright of Everett, and Nicholas Alexander Rovinski of Warwick, R.I., were arrested in connection with the case shortly after the fatal shooting. They face up to life in prison if convicted on terrorism-related charges.
The trio allegedly met in Rhode Island and discussed a plan to behead anti-Islam activist Pamela Geller, according to court records.
But at 5 a.m. on the morning of Rahim’s death, investigators listened in on a phone conversation in which he allegedly laid out a chilling new plan.
“Specifically, Mr. Rahim told his co-conspirator that he intended to attack one of the ‘boys in blue’ — a term the agents believed to be a reference to police officers — and to launch the attack that day,” the report said. “Mr. Rahim further told his co-conspirator that he knew that he likely would not survive the operation but that he welcomed the opportunity to ‘meet Allah’ through ‘Jihad.’ ”
Conley said authorities confronted Rahim later that morning because they felt they had to stop Rahim from boarding a bus bound for Forest Hills MBTA Station, where uniformed officers would be present.
“They had the duty to stop him before he could act,” Conley said, adding that Rahim’s knife had an 8-inch, double-edged blade.
Conley acknowledged that video surveillance tapes of the encounter captured footage from a distance but said those recordings helped corroborate eyewitness statements from 18 people.
“In total, cumulatively, [the evidence] pointed to a justified shooting,” he said.
Sullivan said that even if police took steps to defuse the encounter, “Our contention is that the situation could have been de-escalated even further,” he said.
He did not detail additional steps that officers could have taken.
Sullivan said he has no plans at present to file a lawsuit on behalf of Rahim’s family, but that he also intends to review the report. No legal options have been ruled out, he said.
He was joined by several of Rahim’s relatives, who did not speak during the briefing.
“The family was absolutely floored and shocked by the allegations,” Sullivan said. “They knew Usaamah to be a gregarious, happy young man.”
Asked about the allegation that Rahim was part of a terror plot, Sullivan said, “We don’t have any information that supports that.”
Conley said his office would not identify the officials who shot Rahim, saying that since the suspect was allegedly involved in a plot to murder officers, naming them could endanger their safety.
One Boston police officer and one FBI agent fired on Rahim when he did not back down, Conley said. According to his report, the Boston officer who fired had initially approached Rahim with his gun holstered and his hands raised above his head, displaying his badge in his left hand.
He identified himself as a police officer before asking Rahim to put his hands in the air, and Rahim responded, “Do I know you?” before drawing his knife from a sheath he was carrying in his waist area, the report said.
Meanwhile, passersby watched the confrontation unfold in the parking lot.
“He constantly kept approaching them,” said one witness of Rahim.
Another person said officers retreated as Rahim “kept moving forward but seems [to] kind of like [make] a beeline toward one officer ... and I heard a gun discharge.”
The witness said onlookers were “talking out loud to yourselves [sic], you know, stop stop stop with this person approaching these police officers that way. We couldn’t believe it. ... He just kept coming and coming and coming.”