BOSTON — A leader of Boston’s African-American community said June 3 that a police video of the fatal shooting of a terror suspect makes clear he “was not shot in the back.”
Darnell Williams, head of the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts, said after viewing the video that he could “150 percent corroborate” the police account of how the officers engaged with Usaama Rahim.
Boston Police Commissioner William Evans said officers confronted him because “military and law enforcement lives were at threat.”
Rahim had talked with another suspect about “committing beheadings” and “harming police officers,” a law enforcement official familiar with the investigation said.
The official was not authorized to release details and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Rahim was shot because he was menacing the officers with a large military-style knife that he refused to drop, Evans said.
Williams said the images make clear that Rahim “was not on a cell phone and was not shot in the back,” two “inaccurate” allegations made by the dead man’s brother, Ibrahim Rahim, who is a prominent Muslim scholar.
Williams said he’s not ready to say the shooting was justifiable, and a Boston Muslim leader, Imam Abdullah Faaruuq, called the video “inconclusive.”
He agreed that Rahim wasn’t shot in the back, but said the images are of poor quality and it wasn’t clear whether police had to use deadly force.
Usaama Rahim had been under surveillance by a Joint Terrorism Task Force and spreading online propaganda for the Islamic State group before he was shot and killed on June 2, said U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee.
The task force was investigating Usaama Rahim because he had been “communicating with and spreading ISIS propaganda online,” the Texas Republican said. “These cases are a reminder of the dangers posed by individuals radicalized through social media.”
Authorities quickly showed the video to African-American and Muslim community leaders in an effort to dispel rumors about the confrontation. The meeting “was all about pulling the community together,” Evans said.
Usaama Rahim had been under 24-hour surveillance “for quite a time” and “had some extremism as far as his views,” but “a level of alarm” prompted the task force to try to question him June 2, Evans said.
The FBI also arrested David Wright, 26, who was scheduled to appear in Federal court in Boston on June 3.
The charges against Wright were not immediately disclosed, but the law enforcement official said he had talked with Usaama Rahim about beheadings.
Ibrahim Rahim disputed the official account immediately after the shooting, writing on his Facebook page that his brother had been killed while waiting for a bus.
“He was confronted by three Boston Police officers and subsequently shot in the back three times,” Ibrahim Rahim wrote. “He was on his cellphone with my dear father during the confrontation needing a witness.”
Police said the video shows that officers did not have their weapons drawn when they approached Rahim and that they backed up when he initially lunged at them with the knife.
Ibrahim Rahim has spent decades as an imam leading prayers and teaching moderation in Boston and around the country.
He “is a great guy and preaches a very moderate form of Islam,” said Yusufi Vali, Executive Director of the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, where Usaama Rahim worked as a guard.
After the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013, Ibrahim Rahim described Jihadis who promote terror as “hell-bent on Islam’s destruction from within,” and urged fellow Islamic leaders to drive “a mass recall of the rhetoric of hate and to suppress any and all human desire to harm others based on any contrived justification.”
The imam could not be reached for comment. His e-mail said he was traveling to Boston to bury his brother.
Vali said Usaama Rahim did not regularly pray at the center and did not volunteer there or serve in any leadership positions.
By Denise Lavoie, AP Legal Affairs Writer. AP writer Eric Tucker contributed to this report from Washington