Wednesday, June 03, 2015


(Possibly not my smartest post ever.)

We're informed that the FBI killed a terrorism suspect yesterday in the Roslindale section of Boston after the suspect brandished a knife:
A man under surveillance by antiterrorism investigators was shot and killed Tuesday by an F.B.I. agent and a Boston police officer after he waved a long black knife at them and refused to back down, officials said.

The man, Usaama Rahim, 26, was approached by officers outside a CVS pharmacy in the city’s Roslindale neighborhood around 7 a.m. Officials said he confronted them with a military-style knife and the two officers opened fire.

The Boston police commissioner, William Evans, said the officers asked Mr. Rahim several times to drop his weapon, and they felt endangered as he approached. “Unfortunately, we had to take his life.” Mr. Evans said the encounter had been captured on video, which he said, showed the officers retreating before opening fire....
However, this account -- that Rahim pulled a knife after being approached by officers whose weapons were still holstered -- has been disputed:
In a post on Facebook, Ibrahim Rahim, an imam from California, identified the dead man as his brother. He said his brother had been waiting for a bus when “he was confronted by three Boston Police officers and subsequently shot in the back three times.”

“He was on his cellphone with my dear father during the confrontation needing a witness,” he wrote on Facebook. “His last words to my father who heard the shots were: ‘I can’t breathe!’”
I bring this up because there was another recent case based in the Boston area, a case seemingly linked to terrorism, in which a Boston-based FBI agent shot and killed a suspect who, we were initially told, suddenly pulled a knife on several law enforcement officials.

That suspect was Ibragim Todashev, who was being questioned in connection with a murder that may have been committed by Tamerlan Tsarnaev a couple of years before the Boston Marathon bombing. We were subsequently told that, no, Todashev didn't pull a knife exactly, although the story kept changing, as The Atlantic's Dashiell Bennett noted in 2013:
Law enforcement officials are still trying to explain how a supposedly peaceful interview with an important witness in the Boston bombing case turned into a deadly shooting, but as usual, every new attempt to explain the death of Ibragim Todashev only raises more troubling questions.

After originally accusing the suspect and potential murderous accomplice of Boston bomber Tamleran Tsarnaev of attacking an FBI agent with a knife, and then walking back that claim entirely, an new anonymous source says Todashev, may have injured the agent with a table and a metal pole. Or maybe not.

Here's the way the attack was described in The New York Times. Everyone seems to agree that after several hours of interrogation, Todashev was prepared to confess to an unsolved murder that he and Tamerlan Tsarnaev were connected to. Then thing get a lot less clear:
At that moment, Mr. Todashev picked up the table and threw it at the agent, knocking him to the ground. While trying to stand up, the agent, who suffered a wound to his face from the table that required stitches, drew his gun and saw Mr. Todashev running at him with a metal pole, according to the official, adding that it might have been a broomstick.
So not only has the story changed again, it has now changed twice in the same sentence. The weapon has no gone from nothing to a knife, back to nothing to a table to a metal pole to a broomstick.
I'm not arguing that there's a connection between these two cases. I just wonder if "he came at us with a knife" is the go-to explanation for shootings by FBI agents, or at least Boston-based ones.

In the current case, many news reports are accompanied by a photo of a scary-looking knife.

Though that doesn't prove that Rahim actually waved it at the officers.

It would be nice to see the video the FBI talks about. I wonder if it will ever be released.

The fact that the Todashev story seems really hinky doesn't mean that the Rahim story is inaccurate. I'm just pointing out the similarities.


UPDATE: The Boston Globe reports:
The surveillance video of the fatal shooting of Usaama Rahim by members of an anti-terror task force shows that he was not shot in the back and was not on his cellphone, contrary to an account posted on Facebook by his brother, a community leader said Wednesday after reviewing it with law enforcement officials.

“What the video does reveal to us, very clearly, is that the individual was not on the cellphone. The individual was not shot in the back. And the information reported by others that that was the case was inaccurate," said Darnell Williams, president of the Urban League....

Abdullah Faaruuq of the Mosque for the Praising of Allah said the video was “inconclusive" and that it was not clear to him that Rahim was armed with a knife, as authorities allege, at the moment he was shot.

However, Faaruuq agreed that it was clear that Rahim was not shot in the back and that officers were backing up.

“It wasn’t at a bus stop and he wasn’t shot in the back,” he said.

“However, we couldn’t see clearly at all exactly to answer the question whether he was brandishing a knife or not. It was like 1/20th of the overall frame. It was very far away. So we can’t be clear as to what transpired," he said.
(Hat tip: Never Ben Better in comments.)


Victor said...

Didn't cops and the FBI used to 'wing' suspects?
In other words, shoot them in the arm and/or the knee, and disable them to keep them from attacking?

Or have I read too may murder mysteries, and am confusing fact with fiction?

And this guy was shot in the back?
How does that align with their story that he was coming at them with a knife?

Professor Chaos said...

Hard to believe that vey many people would brandish a knife at law enforcement officials who are obviously armed with guns. Unless the person is really mentally ill, it doesn't make sense.

aimai said...

The story of the murder of the guy they were questioning is just bizarre. I can't even imagine the level of unpunished incompetence the FBI showed--but I think they were using some guy who was pretty hinky and not very well trained during that so called interview. But it boggles my mind that no one paid any price for that killing. I mean for fuck's sake you are interviewing a close friend of the biggest terrorist bomber we've seen in the last few years in the US and you take ZERO precautions? You don't take the guy to a station? You don't cuff him? You don't search him? You think that maybe this was an enormous conspiracy (which is what they thought at the time) and your superior officers don't demote you or fire you for killing your one lead in the case?

Never Ben Better said...

Have no idea what credibility the FBI has here.

But I'll point out that the Boston Police have released video in other officer shootings, and Evans in his press conference yesterday stated that they do have surveillance video of this incident and that it's going to be shown, at least initially, to a group of Muslim community leaders; whether it will make it to the evening news was left unstated.

Whoops! Just tuned into another press conference, live, which is showing a chyron stating that "Meeting attendees say video of shooting shows Rahim was not shot in back." Now a black Muslim minister is speaking and praising the commissioner for his "openness" Also said he saw on the video that the suspect was advancing and the officers retreating.

Live conference on NECN.

Never Ben Better said...

Also stating that it didn't happen at a bus stop and repeating it wasn't in the back. Want to see an enhanced version of the video but waiting to see how the investigation unfolds.

Cmr. Evans says video shows five police retreating 10-15 yards from advancing suspect before shooting; none of the community leaders (Christian and Muslim) contradicts. Also, no cellphone.

So however it plays out, the family's version is bullshit intended to deflect blame from Rahim, incite anger against police.

Never Ben Better said...

Further, from news anchor summarizing just-concluded press conferencw: video not to be released publicly until several witnesses can be interviewed and debriefed without having their recollections tainted. Rahim had three bullet wounds.

A lot more but I wasn't fast enough to catch it.

Website here: -- video of PC isn't up yet but later today there should be at least a summary report, probably some video of it.

Geese Howard said...


No, nobody ever "shoots to wound". For one, shooting someone in the leg is no method to make sure you don't kill them. There are major arteries you could hit. When dealing with firearms, any wound no matter the location can be fatal. Which is why one of the first rules of gun safety they teach you is never to point a gun at something you aren't willing to kill.

It's also next to impossible to target specific limbs on a moving target, unless you are far away with a sniper rifle. The general goal is to put as much center mass as possible to make sure you hit the target and don't put rounds into unintended targets. The only people who could effectively make those shots would be... trained elite soldiers who have loads of combat experience under their belts, not the type you want as police and even then it's considered unrealistic.

Shooting to wound is not something that happens in actual military, police, or federal operations, because it's a nonsensical concept in practice. There is however "fire for effect", which is what automatic weapons are for. The goal isn't to kill anyone, but to kick up a lot of lead and noise and force people to take cover so you can move into position against them.

Shooting people in the knee is Hollywood bullshit

Never Ben Better said...

Besides Geese's absolutely on-point comments, I'd add that shooting to wing risks missing the target and hitting whatever's downrange of that shot -- like, say, some innocent passerby.

Or even hitting the arm, say, and having the round blow right through and keep going into whatever's behind the target. You need the mass of a torso to stop a high-caliber round.

Victor said...

Thanks, Geese and NBB.

Obviously, I watched too many cop shows in the 70's and 80's.

Never Ben Better said...

Further info I gleaned on NECN this evening -- the father of Rahim is allegedly a well-known radical Islamist himself with ties to some rather unsavory characters. This was stated by the head of a moderate Islamic group that keeps track of radical Muslims. There's also, it appears, evidence to support the allegations that Rahim and another man, arrested that same day, had plotted to kill random police officers by beheading them with knives, and were planning to do so imminently.

This is, of course, a developing story and we will see where it goes. But the black and Muslim communities in the Boston area aren't marching in the streets about it.

Steve M. said...

It seems to have been handled reasonably well in Boston. And I gather from a Boston Globe reporter on Rachel Maddow's show that the video will be made public soon.

Still waiting for more word on the rumors I'm seeing on Twitter that Rahim's initial target was Pam Geller....

Never Ben Better said...

CNN's also reporting the Geller connection, and really, she'd be the perfect target for someone of the mindset Rahim's alleged to have had.

I don't have indepth knowledge of the Boston Police Department, but my overall impression is that at least in the recent past it's been better than a lot of big city police departments, and the current commissioner and his predecessor have both made a point of seeking good relations with minority populations, promoting diversity at all levels of the organization, and so forth. The late Mayor Menino and his successor, Walsh, have also emphasized good community relations for the PD.

Then too, it's hard to hate a police commissioner who scrambled and clawed his way up from a tough start in life in South Boston, still has Southie infusing his every word, and made it all the way to commissioner while looking like a gaunt, undersized, slightly demented elf.

Unknown said...

re comment by Geese Hunter -

Apart from agreeing with much of what you've written, it strikes me as well that a dead suspect is is a more decidedly disadvantageous position in which to dispute the premises of his being shot.

(The alternatives include such complications as having to risk breaching the shootee's constitutional rights to due process, as in the example of the younger Tsarnaev and the 'successful' resistance to his motion to change the venue of his trial, 'unnecessarily' complicating the picture of rectitude in the choices made by the local law enforcement officials in the course of his being apprehended.)

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