Crime

DA: FBI agent, Boston officer justified in shooting terror suspect Usaamah Rahim

More than a year after Usaamah Rahim was shot to death by an FBI agent and a Boston police officer in a Roslindale parking lot, Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel Conley has announced that his office will not be pursuing criminal charges against the agent and officer who shot him.

Their use of deadly force was a lawful exercise of self-defense or defense of others and did not constitute a crime under Massachusetts law,” said Conley, flanked by Boston Police Commissioner William Evans and Harold Shaw, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Boston office, at a meeting Wednesday in his office.

At the time of his June 2, 2015, death, Rahim was under investigation by a Joint Terrorism Task Force for his ties to ISIS. He and two alleged co-conspirators, his nephew, David Wright, and associate Nicholas Rovinski, allegedly had a plan to behead Pamela Geller, a woman who held a “Draw Muhammad” competition in Garland, Texas.

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On the morning of his death, however, Rahim allegedly changed plans, and decided to attack Boston police officers. Wright and Rovinski are facing federal charges for their involvement in the alleged plot.

Rahim allegedly voiced his decision in a phone conversation with Wright the morning he died.  Members of the task force listened to the audio of his conversation that morning, and Conley’s office later reviewed the content.

“It was clear from this recorded conversation that Mr. Rahim did not expect to survive the attack,” Conley said.

Conley said Rahim was armed was a 13-inch knife at the time of his death.

He said his investigation into the shooting was based on surveillance footage and interviews with 18 witnesses. According to his report, when Rahim walked to a bus stop, a Boston police detective instructed him to put his hands up. Instead, Rahim drew the knife from a sheath, and ignored repeated requests to drop his weapon, authorities said.

Officers “attempted to de-escalate the situation by retreating a distance of nearly 50 feet, almost the entire length of the parking lot from Washington Street to Dunkin’ Donuts, and repeatedly ordered Mr. Rahim to drop his weapon,” Conley said.

Instead, Rahim advanced on the officers and said, “You drop yours,” and, “Why don’t you shoot me?,” according to Conley.

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Rahim was shot three times, Conley said, twice by the FBI agent and once by the Boston police officer.

Because of Rahim’s alleged ties to terrorism, Conley said he would not be releasing the name of the agent or officer who shot Rahim. “Identifying the task force officers by name could put them at risk,” he said.

Conley said that the officers did not require a warrant to stop Rahim. “In fact, knowing what they now did about his plans for that day, they had the duty to stop him before he could act,” he said.

Conley and Shaw declined to answer questions about the duration of the investigation into Rahim, citing the ongoing case against Wright and Rovinski.

Rahim’s family, who Conley said his office met with prior to releasing the information to the press, remained skeptical of the report.

Rahim’s mother and aunt appeared outside the DA’s office with their attorneys.

Harvard Law Professor Ronald Sullivan, who is representing Rahim’s family, said that while they still have to review the report, which is more than 700 pages, the possibility of pressing civil charges against the FBI and Boston police remains open.

“Nothing is off the table,” he said.

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Carl Williams, an attorney for the Massachusetts chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said that he is concerned about “the closeness in which the investigative body had with the two groups they were investigating.” He said the case highlights the need for body cameras, and a need to de-escalate situations where the suspect is not carrying a firearm.

Correction: An earlier version of this article misidentified the Rahim family’s attorney as Donald Sullivan.

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