AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
A suspected terrorist was fatally shot this week in Boston by antiterrorism officers. His family is calling for a full investigation of his death. They say it's not clear whether the shooting was justified. NPR's Tovia Smith has the latest.
TOVIA SMITH, BYLINE: Usaamah Rahim had been under 24-hour surveillance for allegedly planning to behead a specific person believed to be Pamela Geller, who has railed against the dangers of what she calls Islamic extremism. Antiterrorism investigators say the 26-year-old Rahim got impatient with that plan, and at 5 a.m. Tuesday, he called an alleged co-conspirator and said he'd decided instead to kill police that day or the next. Within a couple hours, five officers approached him in Boston. Officials say their weapons were not drawn, but Rahim came at them with a large combat knife. They say the officers retreated, and only after Rahim didn't stop they started firing.
ABDULLAH FAROUK: I think that it was reckless that they would be out here in the parking lot shooting. They can capture elephants without killing them.
SMITH: A Boston imam, Abdullah Farouk, who saw video of the incident, says he no longer believes initial claims that Rahim was shot in the back. But he and a family lawyer question whether the confrontation was the functional equivalent of an illegal arrest and whether deadly force was justified.
FAROUK: He hadn't killed anybody. His tongue was wagging as I understand, but that doesn't warrant killing someone. If they want to take him down or - without killing him they know what to do.
JAMARHL CRAWFORD: You know, pepper spray anyone?
SMITH: The concern is echoed by others in the community.
CRAWFORD: It's very difficult to hold and aim a knife if you have pepper spray in your eyes.
SMITH: Activist and blogger Jamarhl Crawford says he's troubled by how police reacted to what Crawford calls not a serious terrorist threat.
CRAWFORD: It sounded like a lot of bravado, tough talk, and it doesn't look to me as if this young man was even capable. And it just - to me it seems a bit overblown and part of, you know, somewhat of a hysteria.
SMITH: Boston police Commissioner Bill Evans continues to defend the shooting, saying officers faced an imminent threat.
BILL EVANS: You know, we faced a real dangerous situation there. It's clear, you know, they had some real malicious intent to lash out at a boy in blue, you know, is one of our officers.
SMITH: Meantime, the person believed to be Rahim's original target, Pamela Geller, says she's now under round-the-clock security. Geller organized the Draw the Prophet event in Texas where two gunmen, who opened fire, were killed by police. But Geller told CNN today she's not the only one at risk.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
PAMELA GELLER: People need to understand the jihadist doctrine and that it is coming for you and mainstream Muslims should be standing with me shoulder to shoulder in defense of our freedoms.
SMITH: Rahim's nephew and alleged co-conspirator, 25-year-old David Wright, is under arrest for conspiring to obstruct justice. Authorities have not ruled out additional charges Tovia Smith, NPR News, Boston.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.