Report: Slain imam died ‘virtually instantly’

Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN — Police last week released the autopsy report of a local imam who was shot dead by federal agents at a city warehouse in October.

But the long-awaited release did little to quell public anger over police handling of the controversial case.

The autopsy had been withheld for nearly two months at the request of the Police Department, which is conducting a criminal investigation into whether federal agents acted inappropriately when they shot Luqman Abdullah.

According to the autopsy, Abdullah, died “virtually instantly” after being shot 20 times. Bullet wounds were found throughout his body, including his back and genitalia, with the majority clustered in the left thigh and torso region.

But left largely unexplained were a broken upper jaw and several small abrasions and lacerations on his hands and face. Abdullah was not shot in the head, according to the autopsy.

Wayne County Medical Examiner Dr. Carl Schmidt, who conducted the autopsy, noted several unusual aspects to the case. He said it was only the second time his office had been requested by a police department to delay releasing an autopsy report. The other, he said, was the autopsy of 5-year-old Neveah Buchanan last year. Schmidt also said it was unusual to see such a high number of bullets in a shooting victim.

“We see many multiple gun shot wound cases, but I don’t remember police being involved in one that had as many gunshot wounds as this one,” he said.

Abdullah, leader of the mostly African-American Masjid Al-Haqq mosque in Detroit, was killed Oct. 28 during an FBI sting of an alleged stolen goods ring at a warehouse on Miller Road.

In statements made after the shooting, agents said they told Abdullah to surrender himself or they would release a dog to apprehend him. When he refused to surrender, they sent the dog after him, and Abdullah fatally shot the dog, officials said. Dearborn police are investigating the shooting because it happened in Dearborn.

Police Chief Ronald Haddad would not comment on the investigation’s findings at a Feb. 1 press conference. He did say it would likely be several more weeks before it is completed, and that the results would be forwarded to the Michigan Attorney General’s office.

The FBI already has completed an internal investigation, although its findings have not been released.

The slow trickle of information has Abdullah’s family and civil rights groups demanding answers. Attorney Nabih Ayad, who represents Abdullah’s wife, told reporters he wanted a second autopsy conducted to further examine how Abdullah suffered the nonbullet wounds.

Schmidt did not identify a potential cause of the injuries in his report. And at a press conference he said that the abrasions found on Abdullah’s hands and faces did not appear to be consistent with bite marks.

Still, Ayad said he wondered if the dog bit Abdullah first, prompting him to fire back in defense.

Dawud Walid, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations Michigan Chapter, has made a Freedom of Information Act request to see if there is any video footage of the incident. Walid said he thinks there might be video because the FBI controlled the warehouse where Abdullah was shot.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Justice Department last week opened an independent investigation into the shooting. U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-14th District), who has expressed concern about the secrecy surrounding the shooting, announced the investigation at a press conference in Detroit.

“On the surface, someone being shot 21 times raises quite a few questions in the criminal justice system,” said Conyers, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee. “All we want is simple fairness.”