Joint Terrorism Task Force members who shot domestic terrorist lose qualified immunity thanks to Boston judge

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BOSTON, MA – In 2015, officers on the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) made contact with suspected domestic terrorist Usaamah Rahim. 

During the encounter, Rahim drew a knife and was shot and killed by members of the task force.  Although the shooting was ruled justified self-defense in 2016, a federal judge has just allowed the officers to be sued, denying them qualified immunity.

Rahimah Rahim, the mother of Usaamah Rahim, has been working to sue the police officers who killed her son.  Rahimah intends to sue the FBI agent and the Boston police officer for unreasonable search and seizure, a move that was blocked until December 2. That is when a federal judge denied the officers qualified immunity and allowed the lawsuit to move forward.

The ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Indira Talwani allows the lawsuit to move forward to a discovery phase where both sides can request evidence from the other as they prepare for a potential jury.  Talwani, in her decision, said that it was important that the officers considered “less hurried decisions made leading up to that moment.”

Talwani believes that Rahimah was not given the opportunity to question the officers or review any facts related to whether or not the shooting of Usaamah was justified. 

A grand jury has already reviewed all facts and video evidence of the shooting and determined the shooting was justified, but Talwani does not believe that investigation was enough to justify the shooting.

After hearing of the decision, Rahimah said:

“It gave me hope that if she’s looking at it that closely and giving us a chance to see some of the things or question some of the things and find those missing pieces and bring them to light, that there’s a chance for us to get justice for Usaamah.”

The incident stemmed from a terrorism investigation in which Usaamah and another person had plotted to behead conservative blogger Pamela Geller. They allegedly wanted to kill her because of a cartoon contest on her site featuring Muhammad. 

Instead of following through on finding and beheading Geller, Usaamah focused on killing police officers because he did not want to wait any longer to commit bloodshed.  One of Usaamah’s accomplices, David Wright, AKA Dawud Sharif Abdul Khaliq, allegedly told the FBI that he was aware of Usaamah’s intentions to kill police officers.

When members of the JTTF, which was comprised of federal and local officers, became aware of threats made to law enforcement and murders of police officers planned to occur within two days of their receiving the information, they decided time was of the essence and Usaamah Rahim needed to be interviewed.  Officers conducted surveillance and located him as he was walking near a CVS in Boston.

When officers approached him and identified who they were, Usaamah pulled what was described as a military-styled knife and turned to face them.  Officers drew their firearms and gave Usaamah repeated orders to stand down and to drop the knife, all of which he ignored.

Officers attempted to retreat before they were ultimately forced to fire. A Boston officer and an FBI agent struck Usaamah three times in the chest.  Usaamah died from his injuries.

Usaamah’s brother, Ibrahim Rahim, claimed on social media claiming the officers had shot his brother in the back in cold blood.  After hearing this misinformation, authorities released video surveillance of the suspected domestic terrorist, in fact, armed and advancing towards officers before he was shot.

The video was shown to Darnell Williams of the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts, who agreed that the video footage showed the officers’ account of the situation was correct.  Other leaders in the area, like Abdullah Faaruuq, would not admit that the shooting appeared justified, but did admit that it did not appear that Usaamah was following officer’s commands.

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Terrorist’s family wants to remove qualified immunity for police officer and FBI agent who killed their son

December 4, 2020

 

BOSTON, MA  Terrorist Usaamah Rahim conspired to behead Pamela Geller, an outspoken critic of Muslims.  He was confronted by police and an FBI agent, and he threatened them with a large knife.  They shot and killed him. 

Now, the lawyers representing his family want to remove the officers’ qualified immunity.

 

Usaamah Rahim, known as an Islamic State (ISIS) sympathizer and active terrorist, worked towards assassinating Pamela Geller, who is described as an anti-Muslim, far-right, political activist, blogger, and commentator. 

She has been very outspoken about radicalized Muslims carrying out attacks, and also their treatment of women in their culture.  

 

Rahimah Rahim, Usaamah Rahim’s mother, has contracted an attorney to fight against the dismissal of charges against the primary police officer and the FBI agent in this case due to qualified immunity. 

The Legal Information Institute defines qualified immunity as:

“Specifically, qualified immunity protects a government official from lawsuits alleging that the official violated a plaintiff’s rights, only allowing suits where officials violated a ‘clearly established’ statutory or constitutional right.”

The District attorney for Suffolk County, Dan Conley, exonerated the police officer and FBI agent after the shooting.  Rahim’s attorney has demanded the ability to depose both officers, however, qualified immunity prevented the questioning.

 

This case is monumental in scope to police officers everywhere, given that if the qualified immunity standard is defeated, other attorneys will have case law and precedent to use in future cases against officers.

US District Court Judge Indira Talwani ruled that the agent and officer will have to submit to pre-trial questioning, based on her decision concerning DA Conway’s report.

The judge is allowing the attorney to question the officer and agent, and then both the attorney for Rahim and the district attorney will present their sides of the argument in a hearing. 

Only then, and after both sides make their arguments to her, will she consider the officers’ request to dismiss the case based on their qualified immunity claim.

The officers argue that they were carrying out their legitimate jobs as law-enforcement officers at the time, and are protected by qualified immunity. The two officers based their request for dismissal in large part on the report by Conley that exonerated them.

 

Here’s a breakdown of the judge’s decision on this pre-trial matter from Universal Hub, a Boston-area press group:

“Talwani rejected Conley’s report, at least for the purposes of determining qualified immunity, essentially because it was hearsay and because Rahimah Rahim’s lawyers did not get the chance to talk to any of its sources.

Although Conley quotes law-enforcement officers extensively, he was not, himself, a witness to Usaamah Rahim’s death or part of the investigation that preceded it, Talwani wrote.

“She continued that without Conley’s report, she did not have enough evidence to determine if Rahim’s mother has enough of a case that the officers went too far in depriving her son of his Constitutional rights when they killed him to warrant sending the case to a jury, or if the agent and the detective provided enough proof that they were shielded by qualified immunity from a suit.”

Judge Talwani’s wrote in the decision:

“In a case like this one, where the court has found the facts on summary judgment insufficient to determine exactly what the particular conduct was, let alone whether it violated Rahim’s constitutional rights, the court cannot fairly rule on the immunity defense.”

As mentioned previously, this case will have deep and long-lasting impacts on police officers everywhere.  We at Law Enforcement Today will be following the case’s progress closely and will bring you an update when more information is available.

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