Video of Boston terror suspect shooting released

Just after the shooting of Usaama Rahim in Boston, law enforcement agencies took the unusual step of briefing the local Islamic group on the surveillance video that captured the death of the suspected terrorist. They publicly corroborated the police version of events, refuting the family’s contention that Rahim had been shot in the back, fleeing from law enforcement. Today officials briefed the press on the grainy video from a Burger King parking-lot camera, but it takes a little narration to understand what’s happening in it:

Surveillance video released Monday of the fatal shooting of a Boston man suspected of plotting to kill police officers shows six plainclothes officers surrounding him before opening fire in a parking lot.

The blurry video shows Usaamah Rahim, 26,walking through a CVS parking lot on his way to a bus stop in the city’s Roslindale neighborhood during the early morning hours of June 2.

Officers approach Rahim but back up as Rahim walks toward them in the parking lot. The officers draw their firearms, and Rahim, who is mostly obscured by a light pole during the altercation, falls to the ground.

It is not clear from the video what specifically led officers to draw their weapons or which officers discharged them. Police have said two officers – an FBI agent and a police officer – fired three shots. Officials released the original version of the video, which comes from a nearby Burger King restaurant, as well as a version that zooms in on the encounter.

Fox broadcast the briefing live, at which one official explains the action and identifies the players. This makes it easier to follow the action, but the video still doesn’t show enough detail to see Rahim’s knife. Clearly, though, the law enforcement personnel saw something that made them retreat:

The briefing on the video makes it clear that the FBI and police initially retreated while Rahim advanced on them — actually, a considerable distance. With the parking lot clear at that point and room to maneuver, one presumes that the agents tried to hold off on a lethal response for as long as they could keep a reasonable distance from Rahim. Once they hit the line of cars, though, their maneuvering room would have been circumscribed and they risked their own safety if Rahim advanced any further with the knife. It seems very unlikely that FBI and police would have backed up at all had Rahim not been brandishing a weapon of some sort, especially the serious combat knife they retrieved from his body.

Don’t expect this to convince everyone, though:

Surveillance video showing terror investigators fatally shooting a man they said had “malicious intent” to kill officers doesn’t show him brandishing a weapon or approaching officers aggressively as police have maintained, his family said Monday.

Usaama Rahim’s family said in a statement that the blurry video shows that the 26-year-old security guard was not the initial aggressor and that he did not appear to be breaking any laws as he walked toward a bus stop on his way to work on June 2.

They suggested many unanswered questions remain, including whether deadly force was necessary and whether the decision to approach Rahim with a team of armed police officers “in a military-like formation, without benefit of a warrant, constituted an attempted illegal arrest.”

Uh, no, those questions don’t remain at all. There isn’t any law that says law enforcement can’t approach a suspect in public to question him, especially with the probable cause the FBI had already established for 24/7 surveillance. This isn’t a “military-like formation,” but a cautious approach of a suspect considered dangerous, especially to law enforcement. Here’s a big hint as to the difference: The military generally would not amble across an open parking lot when approaching an objective in broad daylight.

It’s not just the family:

Darnell Williams, president of the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts, said last week that the video “150 percent” corroborated the police account of the shooting. But Abdullah Faaruuq, an imam at a Boston mosque where the family prayed, suggested it was “inconclusive” because it’s not clear if Rahim had a knife in his hand.

Again, that’s true — but it’s pretty clear that the law enforcement personnel kept backing up for some reason. A knife was found on the scene, one that matched a purchase by Rahim on Amazon.com. There doesn’t seem to be much room for reasonable doubt in this case, except among people who have an axe to grind, legitimately (his family) or not (everyone else).

From this evidence, it looks as though law enforcement gave Rahim as much room as they could to surrender, and that he simply didn’t want to do so. His own choices determined his fate.