AG report: FBI shot imam in self-defense

Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN — An investigation report released Thursday said FBI agents were within state laws when they fatally shot an imam last year in an undercover operation at an east-side warehouse.

The long-awaited report by the Michigan Attorney General’s Office comes nearly a year after imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah was killed at the warehouse on the northwest corner of Michigan Avenue and Miller Road during a stolen-goods sting. Undercover agents who conducted the operation said then that they shot Abdullah after he opened fire on an FBI dog that was sent to apprehend him.

Abdullah’s family, followers and civil rights organizations have questioned that account, going as far as hiring an independent forensic medical examiner to conduct an autopsy of the slaim imam’s body.

But after a review including more than 1,600 pages of investigative documents, video recordings provided by the FBI and the Dearborn Police Department, and 82 personal interviews, state prosecutors concluded FBI agents acted in self-defense when they fired on Abdullah.

“My office’s review found undisputed evidence that Mr. Abdullah resisted arrest and fired a gun first in the direction of the agents,” said Attorney General Mike Cox in a statement. “Under Michigan law, law enforcement agents are justified in using deadly force in these types of situations, and therefore we found no crimes.”

According to the investigation report, on Oct. 28, 2009, Abdullah was inside the warehouse with four associates moving purportedly stolen flat-screen TVs from one semitrailer to another. Hiding in strategic points throughout the building were nearly 30 FBI agents. The warehouse with four associates moving purportedly stolen flat-screen TVs from one semitrailer to another. Hiding in strategic points throughout the building were nearly 30 FBI agents.

Once all of the suspects were inside, the informant and two undercover agents who were helping move the TVs made various excuses to leave. As the last of them left, agents wearing tactical gear detonated remotely triggered explosives and stormed the building with rifles drawn.

The FBI said the four men with Abdullah surrendered without incident, but he retreated to one of the semitrailers. When agents closed in on him he laid down on his hands and refused to show them, the report said.

Agents said they told Abdullah they would release a dog if he didn’t comply, but he still refused, the report said.

When the dog was deployed, Abdullah pulled out a handgun and fired at the dog, which was in the direction of law enforcement agents, according to the investigation. The agents returned fire, and four seconds later Abdullah was dead.

Officials at the FBI’s Detroit offices said they were pleased with the results of the investigation.

“We believe the Michigan AG’s report accurately portrays what happened at the warehouse that day,” said special agent Sandra Berchtold.

But the report did little to quell skepticism among Abdullah’s supporters. Dawud Walid, president of the Council on American-Islamic Relations Michigan chapter, said Friday that he has questioned the veracity of the investigation since before it even started. Walid said Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy declined to review the case because the FBI would not provide her with certain evidence.

“Cox was forced to review it by default, essentially,” Walid said. “The Wayne County Prosecutor (Worthy) declined to review the case because she said she couldn’t get certain evidence from the FBI, and it hasn’t been made clear if (the Attorney General’s Office) had access to that evidence.”

Phone calls seeking clarification from Worthy’s and Cox’s offices were not immediately returned before press time.

Walid, who has been denied several Freedom of Information Act requests seeking evidence from the shooting, said he still had several questions about the incident, and that he would be satisfied once the U.S. Department of Justice finishes its investigation and he has received documents and video footage he has requested.

The FBI said the information Walid requested could not be released until the other men who were charged in the case go to trial.