Boston shooting of terror suspect: Family seeks answers

A lawyer for the family of the terror suspect, Usaama Rahim, says they want a ‘complete and transparent investigation’ into the fatal encounter. Family members were set to view a surveillance video of the Boston shooting later Thursday.

Elise Amendola/AP
Family members and supporters escort Rahimah Rahim, center, the mother of shooting victim Usaama Rahim, after a news conference on Thursday, in Boston's Roslindale neighborhood in the area where her son was shot to death. Police said Mr. Rahim had lunged at members of a terrorism task force with a knife when they approached to question him.

The availability of a video of Tuesday’s deadly confrontation between law enforcement in Boston and a knife-wielding Muslim man may help answer basic questions and ease tensions in the community.

But a lawyer for the family of Usaama Rahim says they want a “complete and transparent investigation” into the fatal encounter.

The lawyer, Ronald Sullivan, also said family members were shocked to hear allegations that Mr. Rahim had been radicalized and inspired by the Islamic State terror group.

The comments came during a press conference Thursday afternoon in which one local Muslim leader said the police action was “reckless.”

Within a day of the shooting death of Rahim, law enforcement officials began showing a surveillance video of the incident to community leaders and religious groups. Members of Rahim’s family were also set to view the video later Thursday.

The effort is aimed in part at preventing the kind of angry speculation that sparked violent protests last year in Ferguson, Mo.

Boston Police Commissioner William Evans says the use of deadly force was justified after Rahim approached law enforcement officials, wielded a combat knife, and refused to drop it.

The evidence is on the video, the commissioner says.

“Clearly it shows our officers walking up to this individual with no guns, and then within seconds retreating,” Mr. Evans said in an interview with NBC’s “Today” show. “Five policemen backtracking.”

The commissioner added of Rahim: “He was on a mission. He was out to get someone in blue.”

The comment refers to a portion of a telephone conversation taped by counterterrorism officials who had Rahim under 24-hour surveillance. The officials believed that he was preparing to carry out some kind of violent attack, according to an affidavit filed in federal court.

At about 5 a.m. on the morning he died, Rahim called his nephew, David Wright. Rahim said that he’d changed his mind about where to conduct his attack, according to the affidavit.

Earlier, officials said, Rahim had expressed interest in perhaps traveling to another state to assault and behead Pamela Geller, the organizer of a recent prophet Muhammad cartoon competition in Texas.

According to the affidavit, Rahim told Mr. Wright Tuesday morning, “I can’t wait that long.”

The two men spoke in code about Rahim’s intentions, officials say.

“You are attempting to go on vacation,” Wright said, at one point.

“Yeah,” Rahim replied. “I’m going on vacation right here in Massachusetts.... I’m just going to, ah, go after them, those boys in blue. ’Cause, ah, it’s the easiest target and, ah, the most common is the easiest for me....”

The FBI agent who signed the affidavit said that the term “going on vacation” referred to committing violent jihad.

According to the affidavit, Rahim revealed during the conversation that he planned to randomly kill police officers on Tuesday or Wednesday. He had earlier purchased three large combat-style knives and a knife sharpener.

It was after intercepting that telephone call that terrorism task force members decided to move immediately to question Rahim.

Despite the public release of the affidavit and the allowing of some leaders to view the surveillance video, there are still major questions surrounding the deadly confrontation.

Imam Abdullah Faaruuq, a Muslim leader in Boston, said police should have been able to take Rahim into custody without shooting him. “You can capture elephants, lions, and tigers without killing them,” he told reporters at a press conference, according to the Associated Press. 

A woman who identified herself as Rahim’s aunt said the shooting had nothing to do with Islam.

Rahim’s older brother, Ibrahim Rahim, and his mother attended the press conference but did not speak. In a Facebook post shortly after the shooting, Ibrahim, an imam, suggested that his brother was shot in the back by police.

The family has hired Mr. Sullivan and Intisar Rabb to help investigate the fatal shooting. Sullivan told reporters that Ibrahim Rahim was mistaken about his brother being shot in the back.

“We now know we simply did not have all the facts,” Sullivan said.

He said family members would have no immediate comment and were “waiting for evidence to form a reasoned and informed opinion.”

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