A Muslim, African-American man fatally shot by Boston police on Tuesday had allegedly plotted to behead the cops, but conflicting reports question whether police were in the right to shoot.
Conservative blogger, Pamela Geller, assumed she was the initial target of the attack, but Boston Police Commissioner Williams Evans said he did not believe the suspect had developed a specific plan to attack the anti-Islam activist.
Surveillance footage released Wednesday shows the victim identified as Usaama Rahim lunging at officers with an eight-inch, military-style knife before he was shot by a police officer and an FBI agent, Evans said.
“We believe the intent was to behead a police officer,” a law enforcement official told the Boston Globe. “We knew the plot had to be stopped. They were planning to take action Tuesday."
Rahim was shot outside a CVS store. A second suspect, David Wright, was arrested that night in connection with the case.
Muslim and community leaders agreed that police backed off from Rahim before shooting, but also stressed the importance of a thorough investigation and greater transparency into the case.
A statement released by the Council on American-Muslim relations said,
"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.”
The 26-year-old suspect was being monitored by police and considered a “serious threat”, but it remains unclear as to why Rahim was being watched, putting further weight onto the government’s spying and subsequently fatal police shooting of Rahim.
“Given the lack of a continuing threat, the public deserves to understand why police were spying on and fatally shot Rahim,” said Farhana Khera, executive director of Muslim Advocates. “This transparency is critical to gaining trust of law enforcement by communities that are all too often victims of police surveillance and killings.”
Rep. Michael McCaul told the Associated Press that the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force had been investigating Rahim for "communicating with and spreading ISIS (Islamic State) propaganda online."
Rahim’s family contested the official report of the shooting. His brother Ibrahim Rahim said Rahim was waiting at the bus stop to go to his job when he was shot in the back while talking on his cell phone to their father.
"We are hearing two different narratives of the incident," Khera said. "The victim's family has said that Rahim was shot in the back as he was talking on the phone with his father, while law enforcement officials have claimed he was shot in the front."
President of the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts Darnell Williams with Evans that Rahim was not shot in the back or on his cell phone. Imam Abdullah Farooq agreed, but said the video was “inconclusive” and the quality was poor.
In the wake of ongoing police brutality and fatal shootings of minorities, especially African- American men, the American public deserves greater transparency and a better understanding of all the details leading up to Rahim's death — instead of just the police's paraphrased account.