It was the dog that set Dawud Walid off. He had been calm and professional throughout a Thursday news conference called to challenge a Justice Department report that found no wrongdoing by FBI agents who shot and killed a Detroit imam last year while trying to arrest him.
The agents all said they fired only when Luqman Abdullah pulled a gun he'd been hiding and pointed it at the FBI dog released to subdue him. The dog was between the agents and Abdullah, placing them in the line of fire. The dog was killed, hit by three bullets from a Glock 9 mm in the chest.
The raid was staged to arrest Abdullah and his followers on charges of conspiring to sell stolen goods, violating weapon laws and other crimes. In briefings, agents were alerted to Abdullah's history of threatening to shoot police officers who may come to arrest him and his instructions that his followers should always be armed.
Walid, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Michigan chapter, said he pressed DOJ officials to explain why the agents' stories should be believed. Because, he was told, the agent who was the dog's handler recounted the lethal events with tears in his eyes because he loved the dog.
"I'm like, to hell with that dog," Walid hollered. "We're talking about a human being, and he's gonna talk about … an agent who was involved in the killing of a human being is tearing up because the death of an attack dog. That's what this dog was. It was not a nice little puppy dog."
Since the shooting last October 28, Walid and his organization have demanded independent investigations into what happened. Walid has claimed the FBI shot a peaceful man; that agents released multiple dogs on Abdullah after the imam had tried to surrender. And, even after three separate reviews reached the same conclusion and found no evidence of impropriety, he continues to question whether Abdullah was armed at all.
A lack of information, or the use of bad information, rarely deters Walid, a look at his track record shows (click here to see the IPT's new 16-page profile of Walid). In addition to the baseless "questions" he has raised in the Abdullah shooting, he has mischaracterized the 9/11 Commission Report's assessment about the hijackers' connections with mosques, tried to deny clear Hamas-support references in his own speech, and argued the FBI is recklessly sending informants, whom he calls agent provocateurs, into mosques to entrap Muslims.
His suspicion of law enforcement was exhibited late last month, after FBI agents in Chicago and Minneapolis raided the homes of anti-war activists as part of an investigation reportedly centered on possible support for terrorist groups including the Colombian FARC and the Islamist Hizballah.
Walid blasted the searches as unfounded during a protest in Detroit September 24:
"I'm here to defend the 1st amendment and for the freedom of speech and of association. The recent raids that took place on peace activists are basically amounting to a witch hunt to chill the 1st amendment rights of Americans."
How would he know? Walid offered no information to substantiate his argument. Until an affidavit of probable cause is released publicly, no one will know what agents were looking for or why they felt they might find it in the locations searched.
In the Abdullah case, the DOJ Civil Rights Division report demolishes claims Walid has made throughout the year, but comments by him and others who joined him Thursday revealed no recognition of that reality. The report is "superficial and incomplete," he said.
Among his allegations:
- Is this the kind of excessive force that we black Americans are all too familiar with?" – Oct. 31 Detroit Free Press
The Dearborn Police, Michigan Attorney General and DOJ Civil Rights Division say no. Each review concluded that agents shot Walid only after he fired in their direction. Four agents with .223 caliber semiautomatic rifles fired 20 shots within four seconds, something consistent with their training for such a circumstance.
- "Is this reality that the FBI shot an imam 18 times and handcuffed after he shot their DOG and didn't point a gun at agents?" – Oct. 31 Detroit Free Press.
The agents, none of whom had ever shot at a suspect before, all signed statements indicating they were in Abdullah's line of fire.
- "We're not even sure if the Imam even had a gun. We sent in a Freedom of Information Act request which has not been answered by the FBI in regards to the necropsy report which is basically on autopsy report of the dog to see what caliber bullets entered into the dog. Because in fact, it could [have] been bullets the FBI or so-called friendly fire." – April 3, Minneapolis Star-Tribune
Ballistics tests show the dog was shot three times by 9mm bullets. The agents don't use 9mm. But the agents all saw Abdullah pull a handgun after the dog was released and a Glock 9mm was found next to him after the shooting. A subsequent search of Abdullah's home discovered identical bullets.
- "The FBI released dogs, not one dog, but plural FBI canines at which they began to attack the Imam, suffered marks on his hands, his forearms and even on his face. Then the FBI purports that he pulled out a handgun inside of his coat and shot the FBI dog and upon shooting the dog, they shot him numerous times." "True Talk" interview WMNF-FM Tampa, April 2
None of the reports mention another dog. The investigations included interviews with witnesses who are not in law enforcement.
- "[D]id the FBI agents follow established procedure when they shot the imam 21 times? How was the imam shot in the back?" – CAIR news release, Jan. 30, 2010
The reports don't address the one shot in Abdullah's back. A footnote in the DOJ report, however, cites an independent autopsy contracted by CAIR, which noted Abdullah "would have been shot from the rear, or [emphasis added] he could have been turning and twisting after being struck by other shots, causing him to be turned around with his back to the shooters." The bottom line is that the investigation found nothing to suggest agents shot Abdullah at any point outside the four-second burst that followed his shots.
The DOJ, Dearborn and Michigan AG reports conclude that, unlike four other suspects who were present and arrested without harm, Abdullah refused to comply with commands to lie down and keep his hands exposed. He tried to run out a back exit then refused to show his hands so agents could see if he was armed.
"The facts show Abdullah making a series of decisions that resulted in the use of deadly force against him – and ultimately his death," the Michigan Attorney General's report concludes. "None of Abdullah's followers who complied with police commands were injured in any way."
Though there's no tangible evidence to support his allegations, Walid continues to be taken seriously as a spokesman. Reporters at his news conference Thursday offered no questions challenging his arguments, with the Detroit Free Press repeatedly echoing his message in stories and editorials.
Upon seeing the report, Andrew Arena, the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Detroit office, said he hoped the shooting matter would be put to rest. "Hopefully it will dispel some of the rumors and myths. Listen, some people out there are never going to be satisfied. I realize that and there's nothing I can do about it."
To read our full profile of Dawud Walid, click here.