Usaamah Rahim hits the ground in the parking lot, just as a yellow school bus passes through the foreground of the surveillance video.
That much is clear from the footage, obtained from a fast-food restaurant about 50 yards away, showing how police killed the Boston terror suspect last week. Authorities shared the video with media Monday after honoring the family’s request that it not be released until after Rahim’s funeral Friday.
Officials told reporters the footage spoke for itself. Still, it required narration as Rahim, five FBI agents and a Boston Police Department detective appear as moving blobs.
Rahim’s family contended the video was far from clear-cut and said it demonstrates that “Rahim was breaking no laws when law enforcement attempted to restrain his liberty,” according to a statement.
“The video does not show Mr. Rahim possessing, holding, or brandishing a weapon of any sort, much less a knife. The video does not show Mr. Rahim plotting, scheming, or planning an attack on law enforcement officers. To the contrary, the video depicts Mr. Rahim walking toward a bus stop on the way to work,” the statement said.
In the video, blurry because of the distance between the camera and the subjects it’s recording, Rahim appears first walking toward a bus station area.
The federal agents and police officer follow him. Within seconds, the entire group backtracks, and a police car arrives with its blue lights activated as the agents appear to loosely surround Rahim. The suspect hits the ground, and at least one of the law enforcement officers keeps his handgun trained on Rahim.
Rahim, who has been accused of wielding a military-style knife at officers, came within 3 to 4 feet of police during the encounter, Suffolk District Attorney Daniel Conley said. The knife is not visible in the video.
Two of the six law enforcement officers opened fire, and one officer “saw the bus. He waited till the bus was gone” to fire on Rahim, the prosecutor said.
Conley said he hadn’t reached any findings yet in his probe, which is happening alongside a federal investigation. When the probe has concluded, the entire investigative file will be released to the media, he said.
Rahim had been under 24-hour surveillance at the time of the shooting. Authorities received information he planned to launch an attack — on police officers, according to previous reports — and wanted to approach him before he got on a bus, said FBI Boston special agent in charge Vincent Lisi.
Boston Police Commissioner William Evans said his officers do not carry Tasers, and using nonlethal force wasn’t an option.
“This guy had malicious intent, and our officers were really faced with that,” Evans said, commending officers for “averting a serious tragedy that day.”
Officers told Rahim repeatedly to drop his knife, and he was given every chance to surrender peacefully, the commissioner said.
Though it’s not possible to make out details — and there is no audio on the video — Evans pointed out that Rahim must have posed a threat to make the armed officers back away and surround him.
“They’re not doing that unless there’s a real, live threat being posed,” he said.
But the Boston 26-year-old’s family said in its statement that the video does not show Rahim being the “initial aggressor.” Rather, the family said, it shows authorities “in what looks to be a military formation approaching an unsuspecting man.”
“The family is disappointed that public officials chose to publish only the very end of the contact between law enforcement and Mr. Rahim,” the statement said. “Had they shown the entire video, the public would have seen the military-like approach of law enforcement as Mr. Rahim casually strolled toward the bus stop. The entire video is evidence that Mr. Rahim was breaking no laws when law enforcement attempted to restrain his liberty.”
The video presented by Conley did show officers approach Rahim, and Conley told reporters Monday that police did not approach Rahim with designs on arresting him. Instead, police and federal agents wanted to talk to him about his “intentions” after learning that Rahim, who had reportedly been under surveillance for at least two years, had planned to attack police officers, Conley alleged.
His family members viewed the surveillance footage Thursday. The family asked police not to release the footage publicly until Rahim was buried Friday.
Who was Usaamah Rahim?
His brother, Ibrahim Rahim, originally posted to social media that police had killed Usaamah Rahim for no reason, shooting him in the back while he spoke on the phone with their father.
But after seeing the video, he acknowledged his initial post was not correct and asked the public not to jump to conclusions. He still wanted to know more about his brother’s death.
“The facts are still coming in. We need more information,” he said.
Counterterrorism officials have said they were monitoring Rahim for at least a couple of years.
He “liked” an ISIS-related page on Facebook, and his social media posts demonstrated an admiration for radical Islam. While U.S. officials say they don’t believe ISIS helped him hatch a specific plan, a law enforcement official said the terror outfit influenced Rahim to a degree.