BOSTON (AP) — Muslim and black leaders in Boston are divided over whether surveillance video released this week shows that terror investigators acted appropriately when they shot and killed a man who authorities say lunged at them with a military-style knife.
Sadiki Kambon, of the Black Community Information Center, suggested Tuesday that the video shows police took a “tactical” approach and never intended to simply question Usaama Rahim, who terrorism officials say was under 24-hour surveillance and had planned to carry out an attack on police imminently.
“The intent was to take Mr. Rahim down,” he said at a news conference. “That was pretty clear from the way they conducted themselves.”
But others say the grainy video, shot about 50 yards away from where the shooting took place, suggests police acted responsibly.
Darnell Williams, president of the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts, said it appears officers took a “soft approach” with no weapons initially drawn and no apparent aggression. He noted that the video isn’t as clear cut as law enforcement or community activists would like.
“It’s like three people seeing the accident at the corner,” Williams said. “Everybody is going to see something different.”
Rahim, a 26-year-old black Muslim security guard, was killed June 2 after authorities approached him in a CVS parking lot while he was on his way to work.
The surveillance video was released publicly Monday and shown privately last week to Rahim’s family and community leaders.
Rahim’s family says the video doesn’t show Rahim brandishing a weapon or approaching officers aggressively, as authorities have said. They maintain Rahim was on the phone with his father at the time he was shot, though they’ve recanted previous statements that he was shot in the back.
“The cell phone records seem to be consistent with the fact of a call at that time,” a lawyer representing the family said late Monday in a statement.
The family has also questioned whether it was appropriate for the plainclothes FBI agents and police officers to approach Rahim in a “military-like formation” without a warrant.
Boston Police spokesman Mike McCarthy says the department can’t comment on whether Rahim was on the phone, citing the ongoing investigation.
And he says no warrant was required because the officers were conducting a so-called Terry stop, which allows police to briefly detain someone on reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing without probable cause.
Police Commissioner William Evans has said the video confirms officers acted appropriately, drawing their guns only after backing away and giving Rahim multiple chances to drop the knife.
Former Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner, who is black, said authorities’ actions still need to be reviewed.
“There needs to be re-examination at the highest levels. Sending five armed officers out in the beginning of rush-hour traffic to apprehend someone that you think is dangerous does not make sense.”
Imam Abdullah Faaruuq, head of the Mosque for the Praising of Allah, where Rahim and his family prayed, suggested authorities should have shared their concerns about Rahim with him or other community leaders before taking action. Police and FBI declined to comment on that Tuesday.
Boston is one of three cities where President Barack Obama’s administration has launched pilot Countering Violent Extremism programs. In them, law enforcement officials and community leaders are supposed to work together to prevent residents from going down the path of violent extremism.
“Why do you have to wait and wait and wait, like he’s going to take over the world with a bowie knife?” Faaruuq said. “If they have concerns with the Muslim community, they should contact me.”
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