February 2, 2010 at 6:47 pm

Justice Dept. investigating fatal shooting of imam by FBI

Abdullah )

Detroit-- The U.S. Justice Department is conducting what it calls a routine investigation into the FBI shooting death of Imam Luqman Ameein in Dearborn, but the development was hailed by those calling for a probe into the October incident. U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Detroit, who had called for the investigation along with a coalition of civil rights groups, announced at a news conference today the investigation was under way.

"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.

Alejandro Miyar, a spokesman for the Justice Department in Washington, confirmed the investigation but said it would have been conducted regardless of a request by Conyers or anyone else.

"The FBI's inspection division conducted a review," Miyar said. "The civil rights division has received the FBI's report and is now conducting an independent review of the shooting."

An autopsy report released Monday showed Abdullah was shot 21 times and said the medical examiner found his dead body handcuffed inside a trailer when he arrived at the Dearborn warehouse that was the scene of the shooting.

"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.

The FBI said it was investigating a radical and violent separatist group and was about to make arrests in connection with a sting operation into alleged fencing of stolen goods when Abdullah opened fire, killing an FBI dog and bringing return fire from agents at the warehouse.

But Abayomi Azikiwe of the Michigan Emergency Committee against War and Injustice called Abdullah's death a "targeted assassination."

Special Agent Sandra Berchtold, a spokeswoman for the FBI in Detroit, said Monday the autopsy report is only one piece of information in the case and asked the public to reserve judgment until all the facts are in.

The Dearborn Police Department is conducting an investigation, and the FBI has completed an internal investigation of the shooting that has not been made public.

Dawud Walid, executive director of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said his group filed Freedom of Information Act requests Monday seeking more information about the raid on the Dearborn warehouse, including any FBI video of the incident. Since the FBI controlled the warehouse as part of its sting operation, it is likely the shooting was captured on video, Walid said.

Conyers and others also expressed concern about an incident the night of Oct. 28 when they say Detroit police entered Abdullah's mosque at prayer time with guns drawn.

Nabih Ayad, who represents Abdullah's wife, Amina, as well as a defendant in the federal indictment handed down in the Abdullah case, said using a dog to confront a Muslim creates an environment for hostility because dogs are seen as unclean.

"Why did they have to gun him down 21 times?" Ayad asked.

Amina Abdullah said the autopsy report caused her great pain. "I don't eat; I don't sleep," she said.

Ron Scott of the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality said he is concerned federal grants to local law enforcement to create multi-jurisdictional task forces are creating "what amounts to a national police force."

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