Should FBI Agents Carry Guns: The Killing of Usaamah Rahim

The video of the shooting of Usaamah Rahim was released yesterday. We also learned, or at least I did, that according to Suffolk DA Dan Conley that five FBI agents and one Boston police officer approached Rahim. Perhaps had there been five Boston police officers and one FBI agent the reaction to Rahim may have been different.

Before I go on I suggest that thanks goes to DA Conley for releasing the video so promptly. There’s a big difference that we have to consider right from the beginning: Conley feels a responsibility to the public while the FBI feels a responsibility only to itself. Had the FBI taken custody of it, we would never get to see it. Seriously, it is not that it would be months before we saw it, we would never, ever get to see it.

The FBI hides everything. That, of course, will lead to great problems in our society where more and more people are upset at things being hidden. It is long past due for the FBI to have some light shine onto its operations. It must have outside people look at its work who can assure the American people that it is doing its job.

Then there’s the other difference. DA Conley will conduct an investigation of the shooting to determine the status of police officers involved; the FBI will conduct its own investigation of its guys and we know what happens when you investigate yourself.

Here in Boston we remember it took a year for the FBI to disclose what happened when one of its agents gunned down Ibragim Todashev in his Florida condominium.   Not only that, the FBI agent who did the shooting refused to be interviewed by any outside authorities.

We never officially learned the identity of the FBI agent who killed Todashev. Most thought he could have fired less than seven bullets. We have to wonder if the FBI agent who did the shooting here is the same one with the itchy finger in Florida.

Initially we were misled by the suggestion this was a Joint Terrorist Task Force confrontation. It really was an FBI confrontation with a Boston office going along. The Boston police commissioner referred to “our officers” faced with a man with malicious intent which seemed to indicate there were more Boston police officers there.

FBI SAC Vincent Lisi said the FBI would conduct its own investigation. It should be noted that the outcome has already been determined since the FBI has found over the last twenty years not one shooting by an FBI agent was unjustified.  As someone pointed out, that record is only tied by that of the North Korean police.

There’s little doubt Rahim presented a threat if he had the foot long military style knife.There is also little question that he was walking toward five men as they backed away no doubt telling him to drop the weapon. He never changes his pace but is suddenly shot when there was nothing preventing the FBI from continually backing away while trying to talk the man down.

When asked if a Taser would not have been a better weapon to bring him down, the police commissioner said the Boston police don’t carry Tasers. The reason  is “some people have died after being hit with the weapon” as if that was not the case with bullets. Perhaps it is time Boston police changed their policy and issue Tasers along with having the police wear body cameras. I don’t expect the FBI to do so since it still refuses to use tape recorders when interviewing people.

Times are changing. Recent years through the ubiquitous videos show questionable police actions and the suspicions of people about the manner in which police operate have heightened. It is not only that “black lives matter;” all lives matter.

I would suggest situations like these confrontations on city streets are really outside the FBI agents expertise. They are office jockeys for the most part; the Boston cops are the street wise people. One on most days pushes pencils; the other gets pushed by people.

I’d suggest that consideration be given to putting the guys with the expertise in the forefront. I’m not sure it is wise to send inexperienced FBI agents into situations they are not capable of handling. It should be a firm policy in situations like this where it appears a person may be armed and dangerous to take the guns away from the FBI agents who if we want to be honest do not have the skill or street savvy of local cops. Let the locals take the lead. Had that been done here, as evil as Rahim was and as justified as his shooting may be, the tragedy may have been averted.

19 thoughts on “Should FBI Agents Carry Guns: The Killing of Usaamah Rahim


    Missing Evidence of Prior FBI Relationship with Boston Bomber

    Almost universally overlooked congressional testimony from then-FBI director Robert Mueller directly contradicts a deliberately-propagated misconception: that the Boston Marathon bombers were unknown to the US government until the Russians issued a vague warning that was dismissed as inconsequential. This revelation calls into question the precise nature of the FBI’s relationship with the bombers—before they became bombers.

  2. This FBI B.S. has been going on for at least 70 years. Case in point Walter R. Walsh an FBI and USMC legend/hero who because he did not conform was pushed out. Fortunately the Corps gave him a place to go and he developed sniper and marksmanship training programs that are the basis for those still used today. He also dispatched some of the most infamous gangsters in the 1930’s (15 by most estimates). Unfortunately he passed away last year after a brief illness at the tender age of 106. If the Bureau had kept him on they would have benefited from his gun fighting skills . I expect though that he would have quickly dispatched this S.O. B. even in 2013. The only tragedy her is that he was not captured for intelligence purposes.

  3. Matt
    I dont know if you are still replying to messages. I left this message in the Where’s Stevie post but you havent responded:

    Have you read WHITEY by Lehr and O’Niel? Read WHITEY BULGER by Cullen and Murphy? If so your analysis?

    Personally, and I can only speak for myself, what fascinates me is that the criminal underworld in some ways is a completely different world. What I mean is that everything criminals do has to be kept as secret and quiet as possible so they dont get caught by law enforcement. The working man has routines, patterns, modes of communication, ways of thinking etc that , and I am assuming, is quite different than the criminal world. Its almost like a different language, sleep patterns, hangouts etc.

    You bring out a great point. Of course I agree someone is distributing drugs, the bookmaking, guns etc in Boston area but who it is, where they hang out, etc will probably only come out to the public in 5-15 years, no? No different than Whitey and Stevie flying under the radar for what, decades? Am I right to assume there are some in Boston law enforcement who are aware who the key leaders and players in Boston organized crime. Takes years to build cases and flip guys it seems from all the reading I have been doing the last few years.

    I wish there was a definitive book on the Boston gang wars of the 50s-70s because the enormous amount of murders among them is similar to the Chicago Mafia of the 30s.

    1. Jerome:
      Still replying but a little behind. I’m trying to spend more time on the book I am writing about these matter which will be from a different viewpoint than those already written. I hope to incorporate into it a chapter on the gang wars. There were 60 to 80 people murdered. It has all been incorporated under the term “Irish gang war” which was supposedly between two Irish led gangs, one from Somerville (Sonny McLean’s guys) and the other from Charlestown (the McLaughlin brothers and friends). The amount of people from those groups who were murdered was about twelve. between There were all sorts of other murders occurring at the time. The Roxbury gang which was not an Irish gang probably murdered more than any other group; the Boston Mafia did a few hits but mostly stayed in the background; others used the absence of police enforcement to get back at people.

      I read those books. I will give a fuller analysis later but the O’Neil & Lehr is a recap of Black Mass with some psychiatric analysis thrown in; the Murphy and Cullen book repeats much of what has been out there but in more detail which really adds little for who cares about Whitey’s daily activities. All these books rely on sources who were giving their own versions of things which were consistent with what they told the prosecutors to get their deals.

      Kevin Weeks book gives an insight in to the criminal world. He says the idea behind committing a crime is to be sure you don’t get caught.It’s not a nine to five job and as you suggest the idea is not to be too open about what is happening. The work day can be consistent with legitimate matters for instance the bookies have to be available at specific times every day, etc.

      It is hard to say who is aware of what in the Boston area. There seems to be a belief that crime ended in the area once Whitey left town in January 1995 – so for twenty years Boston has been free of organized crime, no drug dealing, no loan sharking, no extortions, etc. My sense is that it is still going strong but the guys involved at the top level are like Whitey and Stevie being protected by the FBI.

      The Mafia of course is a shell of itself; as Frankie Salemme said a dozen years ago the guys today can’t hold a candle to the ones of his time. The FBI used Whitey and Flemmi and others to take the Mafia down: Flemmi helped them get Barboza who gave them Patriarca; Flemmi, Berkowitz and others helped with the Angiulos; they were replaced by the Vinnie Ferrara crew who Flemmi also helped take down; and then came Junior Patirarca who again was done in by Flemmi and Sonny Mercurio another of Connolly’s informants. The Mafia might still be operating but as you say they are not advertising; someone has to be taking all the action and laying it off unless sports betting is no more which we know is not true.

      1. Matt
        Great analysis again Matt. This is only my opinion of course but my suggestion is to spend more than 1 chapter in your book on the “Irish Gang Wars” of the Boston/New England. Of course it might be a whole other book in and of itself as 60-80 people is a lot of murders. Unfortunately the only source in book form I have found is Hitman by Howie Carr. The other 2 books (Whitey and Whitey Bulger) is what is offered to the public so that limits access to the real story of this saga. Are you going through all of these books to see what the incorrect information and stories are to give the correct information in your book? You dont think the book WHITEY by O’Neill and Lehr gives any depth or insight into Bulgers psyche? Into the mental workings of a sociopath?

        Where can I find information of the Roxbury gang? Who were its leaders and main players? Is there a list of of the 60-80 murder victims during the Irish Gang War era? As I said unfortunately the only source I have found is Hitman by Howie Carr.

        What I personally find interesting and am studying with the limited access to information is how Whitey and Stevie Flemmi lived and prospered while so many other men were killed and murdered. Especially Steve Flemmi because he was a gangster during a very violent era and involved with the italian Mafia. Thats what seperates these 2 individuals apart from so many other criminals. They did use some intelligence and planning and thought in order to survive in a world full of guns, sociopaths, and a very very dangerous world. I would think a college professor could teach a class on there manuevering, prospering, and surviving in the criminal world.

        What year will your book be finished and available?

        1. Matt
          From your response it sounds like there is no good book regarding Boston/New England Organized crime. I have yet to find a book that discusses Raymond Patriarca in depth. A book that discusses the Irish Gang Wars, the Roxbury Gang, Whitey Bulger, Steve Flemmi, the Italian Mafia, Raymond Patriarca etc would be fantastic read. I am hoping your book is a long and thorough book on all these aspects of New England Organized crime.

          Thanks again Matt

        2. Jerome:

          The 60 to 80 murders are not part of any one war; they are murders by various people with different purposes. Bulger’s psychological analysis by people who never talked with him really did not interest me. I know guys who are more or less like Whitey and I never felt a need to go into why they became bad to the bone; some just are. The Roxbury gang does not have much written about it because it takes away from the story of Whitey. It was a mostly Italian crew who were connected with the Mafia who eventually moved over to join with Howie Winter’s gang of three. The leaders were the Flemmi brothers, Salemme, the Martoranos, and some Irish guys who were eventually killed by the Italians.
          When you talk about stevie and Whitey prospering always keep in mind the FBI was protecting them. Having all those agents looking out for them makes their ability to survive that much easier. Stevie and Whitey also owe their longevity to their life style of staying sober and in shape and minimizing their contacts with others.

          As for my book most of it is still in my head so I have no idea when it will be done. I’ll keep you posted on it.

          1. Matt
            I am looking forward to reading your book and will have to get my insights from continuing to read your blog. I , personally, am interested in the psychological analysis/profile of Whitey and the men like him. I believe its the study of psychopaths and sociopaths. If there are any good books that discuss this please recommend. I hear you on you personally having no interest in these mens psychological makeup. Different strokes for different folks. It could be that because you work in this field for so long and dealt with these type of people for so long it does not fascinate you as it does others who have no connection to this world except through books.

            I know you r personal views on Howie Carr so no need to rehash that aspect to all this history. With that said am I correct that the only book available to the public that touches upon the Roxbury Gang, The “Irish Mob” Wars, and the 60-80 murders during that era is the book by Howie Carr called HITMAN? I have found no other indepth discussion or source. Have a great weekend Matt and I wish you would hurry up and finish writing your book. I am sure there are a few people that would buy it and enjoy reading the truth.

            1. Jerome:

              Psychology never played much role in my life; I took people as I found them. There are millions of reasons people act like they do but I found it best to judge them on their actions rather than trying to figure out what it was in their past or their genes that made them into whatever they became. I suppose having tried cases where there are dueling psychiatrists makes one skeptical about the whole field. I had one murder case where the judge told the clerk after I cross-examined a psychologist that the psychologist should have been charged with the murder rather than the defendant.

              You may think you know my views on Howie Carr but since I have mixed reactions to him and don’t know my own views I am sure you may be jumping the gun. Howie’s book with his friend Martorano does show some of the actions of the Roxbury gang. For the most part they went under the radar I suppose like the gang from Charlestown who robbed armored cars is that no one put a name on them. Winter Hill gang got its name because of the location of their gathering place; the Mafia is self-explanatory. Winter Hill was once Buddy McLean’s gang; then because there were three brothers there was the McLaughlin gang.

              My book will come out some day but as I said before it is far from finished.

          2. Matt
            You mentioned that you know a few men like Whitey more or less and they are simply bad to the bone. Did you prosecute and/or ever interview them?

            You were at most of the Whitey trial, no? If so, what was your impression about Flemmi, Martarano, and Weeks testimony? Mostly lies and self-serving to make Whitey look like the leader and fully responsible? Do you think it was Flemmi or was it Whitey that murdered the 2 innocent women that both were named Debbie? Any credibility to Weeks book?


            1. Jerome:

              I know men like Whitey because I grew up in the same neighborhoods that they did. We hung out on the corners together; they looked at life differently than most of us and early on you could tell they were choosing a different life style. Even after they embarked on their criminal careers they would still come back to the neighborhood and hang around. One of the problems with incarcerating them is they were thrown among people like themselves who they would prefer to the guys in the neighborhood so they would draft away. You can wonder if a guy like Whitey not been sent away to federal prison for nine or ten years for the armed robberies would he have been different. There are guys who were bad as teenagers who turned their lives around and became responsible citizens.

              The testimony of the witnesses against Whitey had to fit into blocks that the government had determined were true. Salemme told a guy in prison he’d tell the investigators one thing and they would say “are you sure it didn’t happen” another way and he would go along with what was suggested to him. Their testimony was simply about their crimes and where necessary they would add Whitey into them; of course there was the connection between them and Whitey so it was easy to do especially since they were talking about secretive events that happened a dozen or more years earlier.

              You usually don’t murder someone without a motive. Whitey had no motive to murder the women. Flemmi did. Flemmi also had a motive to implicate Whitey is he was going to get a deal for himself. The Davis girl found another lover and was leaving Flemmi so he murdered her. He came up with a story that she knew of the connection between Connolly and them so she had to be murdered. That made no sense because everyone in the FBI knew of the connection and Martorano testified the Winter Hill guys knew of it an approved it. So what she knew was harmless so why did Whitey care if she left Flemmi. As for the other Deborah, Flemmi saw in her what he had brought her to. It was a continuing reminder of having abused her as a young girl. She was doped up and bringing men home for sex. The poor woman was out of control. That also had nothing to do with Whitey. Why would he care?
              I’m sure Flemmi murdered them and not necessarily in the places where he said they were murdered. I’m also sure that Whitey helped bury them. But their demise rests strictly in Flemmi’s hands.

  4. Agreed. Matt. Former NY Mayor and federal prosecutor Rudy Giuliani used to be frequently mentioned as a strong candidate to head the FBI. I once had the opportunity to ask him about it, and he told me he had no interest in the job. He also told me that the only way he would even consider the post was if he could bring in a top tier of his own managers to run the place. He said it would impossible for any one man to change the culture of the Bureau, even in the top post of director.

    1. Dan:

      That is good information. I’d say Guiliani knew what he was talking about.

  5. Very true Matt. Street experience goes a hell of a long way in situations like this and of course the local police have a better understanding of how things work in their town and who is putting things in play. It’s almost like when you visit someone in their hometown, you let them take the lead and you follow, letting them explain everything as well as where to go and what to do. They also more importantly tell you what NOT to do and where NOT to go. As far as the FBI hiding just about everything, It does infuriate me to no end that they can hide things for as long as they want and basically do what they want and get away with it with no checks & balances so to speak. You have to love the stall tactics like ” we cannot comment on an ongoing investigation ” so that they have plenty of time to get their story together and things in order to their liking as to not receive any blow back and to make sure nothing goes sideways on them down the road. Does the FBI have to answer to anyone in general beside maybe the president ? Or do they really have free rein to do as they please ?

    1. Greg:

      Good comments. The AG is supposed to be over the FBI but no AG has ever really done anything to bring it to heel. Congress also has authority over it as you can guess but almost all Congress people don’t want to take it on. I was at a hearing years ago concerning requiring FBI to share information it has about state crimes with state authorities which it opposed. I was amazed at the end of the hearing to see the Congressman who was a critic of the FBI being surrounded by a half dozen agents who were giving the pitch in private but making it clear to him that they were not happy with his position. None of them want to take it on.

      1. Matt,

        Thank you for the reply. It sounds like everyone is scared to make the first move in trying to bring it to heel. It’s like when a good honest cop knows about corruption within his department and is afraid of bringing it to anyone’s attention out of fear of being labeled a rat and being outcast by everyone else they work with. It’s really too bad that this is the case because it gives the FBI a bad reputation and in my eyes deems them untrustworthy.

        I can’t wait to read your new book when it’s released. Will you be doing any kind of signing or meet and greet once it’s released ?

        1. Greg:

          Book is a long way in the future. I don’t know what I’ll do if and when it is finished. I was never a great salesman so I’m not sure how the book will be handled. Of course if it does get out I’ll have to have something for the people who have come to this blog off and on so it can be discussed by people who have an interest in the matters. One aspect of the book involves the FBI because it is impossible to tell the story of Whitey without understanding what makes the FBI tick and that means understanding J.Edgar Hoover and what made him into the person he became. Without Hoover there is no Whitey which is something none of the others who wrote about him seem to understand.

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