The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, Council on American-Islamic Relations Massachusetts Chapter (CAIR-Massachusetts), and Muslim Justice League today questioned the independence and narrow scope of an investigation by the Suffolk County District Attorney's Office into the June 2, 2015 shooting of Usaamah Rahim by Joint Terrorism Task Force officers from the FBI and Boston Police.
Representatives of the ACLU of Massachusetts and Muslim Justice League attended the Suffolk District Attorney's briefing on August 24 to hear the results of the office's investigation into the shooting of Rahim. The District Attorney announced his office found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing on the part of officers. Though Rahim's family and attorneys have not yet had a chance to read over 700 pages of investigation results just released to them, it appears key questions remain unanswered.
"Since the police allegedly had Mr. Rahim under surveillance and knew he had purchased a knife, this encounter seems to have been tailor-made for de-escalation," said Carl Williams, staff attorney with the ACLU of Massachusetts. "Nothing he did should have taken them by surprise, and this confrontation didn't need to result in his death. Did they have no plan?"
"Representatives of the D.A.'s Office stated that officers intended only to question Rahim, not arrest him--yet they also stated officers planned to prevent Rahim from boarding a bus. If police make clear a person is not free to leave--for example to board a bus--that is an arrest. Why did police not seek an arrest warrant as would be required in such a situation?" asked Shannon Erwin, Executive Director of the Muslim Justice League. "Our Constitution's requirements apply regardless of the type of allegations made against an individual--in this case, one no longer able to speak for himself."
"We are deeply disappointed by the results of this investigation," said John Robbins, Executive Director of CAIR-MA. "In a climate in which American Muslims are becoming targets of violence like never before, this case is yet another incident of action taken without due process, of a guilty verdict being rendered before the case ever saw the inside of a courtroom."
Following the fatal shooting in 2015, the ACLU of Massachusetts, CAIR-Massachusetts, the Muslim Justice League, and several other organizations requested an independent investigation by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, citing concerns about the FBI's ability to independently investigate itself and the Suffolk District Attorney Office's ability to be sufficiently independent in an investigation of the Boston Police. In August 2015, after being informed the Attorney General's Office would not investigate the shooting, the ACLU of Massachusetts, CAIR-Massachusetts, and the Muslim Justice League requested independent investigation by the federal Department of Justice (DOJ), reiterating a request by attorneys for the Rahim family. The groups were informed in a brief letter in February 2016 that the DOJ "concluded [the matter] does not involve violation of federal criminal civil rights statutes."
The ACLU of Massachusetts, CAIR-Massachusetts, and Muslim Justice League do not believe the public has received sufficient answers at this stage, and will continue to pursue channels for an independent, transparent, and thorough investigation into Rahim's shooting and surrounding events.