Boston leaders: Video proves black suspect not shot in back

Community members and police officials gather at the Boston Police Department headquarters to see a video Wednesday of a fatal police shooting on Tuesday in the city’s Roslindale neighborhood. Police said the video shows that officers did not have their weapons drawn when they approached Usaama Rahim and that they backed up when he initially lunged at them with a knife.

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 and the FBI said Rahim was shot after he menaced the officers with a large military-style knife and refused to drop the weapon.

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 added that he’s not ready to say the shooting was justifiable, and a Boston Muslim leader, Imam Abdullah Farooq, 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.

“They might have approached him in a different way,” Farooq said.

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 Tuesday, 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 Wednesday “was all about pulling the community together,” Boston Police Commissioner William 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 Tuesday, Evans said.

A law enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation told The Associated Press that Rahim had been making threats against law enforcement. The official was not authorized to release details of the investigation and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

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 Wednesday. His e-mail said he was traveling to Boston to bury his brother.

Boston voter registration records for Rahim list him as a student. Records indicate that as recently as two years ago he was licensed as a security officer in Miami, but they don’t specify in what capacity. A spokeswoman said Rahim had worked for CVS since March.

Vali said Usaama Rahim did not regularly pray at the center and did not volunteer there or serve in any leadership positions.

The FBI also arrested an Everett man on undisclosed charges Tuesday in connection with the Rahim investigation. David Wright, 26, was scheduled to appear in federal court in Boston Wednesday afternoon.

Rahim’s shooting is being investigated by the Suffolk district attorney’s office and the FBI — a routine procedure for shootings involving police — and The Council of American-Islamic Relations will monitor the investigation, spokesman Ibrahim Hooper said.

Vincent Lisi, special agent in charge of the Boston FBI office, said authorities “don’t think there’s any concern for public safety out there right now.”

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Associated Press writer Eric Tucker contributed to this report from Washington.