Tuesday, February 16, 2010

PANW Editor Quoted in Detroit News Article on the FBI Response to the Assassination of Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah

February 15, 2010

FBI followed protocol in imam's shooting in Dearborn, ex-agent says

He says SWAT team followed protocol in raid that killed imam

The Detroit News

Detroit -- A retired agent who spent more than 20 years on the Detroit FBI's SWAT team says he believes agents acted appropriately in an Oct. 28 operation in which an imam was shot 20 times at a Dearborn warehouse.

The FBI, which controlled the warehouse as part of a sting operation, was trying to arrest Luqman Ameen Abdullah on a criminal complaint charging him with stolen goods and weapons offenses.

The indictment identified Abdullah, 53, also known as Christopher Thomas, as "a highly placed leader of a nationwide radical fundamentalist Sunni group" that sought to establish a separate state within the United States governed by Sharia law.

Muslim and community groups have accused the FBI of excessive force in the raid, which Abayomi Azikiwe of the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War and Injustice described as "a targeted assassination."

Among the concerns is the number of gunshot wounds detailed in the medical examiner's report and the fact Abdullah's corpse was left handcuffed while an FBI dog allegedly shot by Abdullah was airlifted for medical treatment.

A report of a Dearborn Police investigation of the incident has not been released. The report of an internal FBI investigation is completed but has not been released and is being reviewed by the civil rights division of the U.S. Justice Department.

Gregory Stejskal served more than 30 years with the FBI until his retirement in 2006, was on the SWAT team from 1977-98, serving as senior team leader, and now teaches at the police academy at Washtenaw Community College.

He said he has studied the medical examiner's report and media reports and has discussed the incident with FBI agents. Stejskal believes the bureau acted properly and that its agents will be exonerated.

It is FBI policy to use overwhelming force when arresting a suspect believed to be armed and dangerous, Stejskal said. A dog is sometimes used to help subdue a suspect who has refused to surrender, he said.

Agents would have been justified in firing if Abdullah had reached for a weapon, let alone having brandished a weapon and fired three shots, as Stejskal said he understands Abdullah did and as a person familiar with the investigation told The Detroit News.

In a space of three to four seconds, four agents fired an average of five shots each, striking Abdullah 20 times, with one shot creating two wounds for a total of 21 entry wounds, according to the medical examiner's report and a person familiar with the investigation.

"Once you've made the decision to use deadly force, you fire until the threat is eliminated," Stejskal said.

FBI procedures called for Abdullah to be immediately handcuffed when the agents approached, he said. Agents would have then checked for vital signs, found that he was already dead, and would have not disturbed the shooting scene by removing the handcuffs, he said.

Dawud Walid, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations of Michigan, said he wants to wait and review the investigative reports of the shooting and have an independent pathologist review the medical examiner's report.

"The reality is that none of us were at the scene," he said. "We really don't know what happened."

Nabih Ayad, an attorney representing Abdullah's widow, said it was needlessly confrontational to send a dog after Abdullah because Muslims view dogs as unclean and anyone attacked by a dog could react violently.

Stejskal said he thought the concern about the use of the dog would be more legitimate if Abdullah was a Muslim from the Mideast, rather than an American who converted while in prison.

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