The family of a Detroit mosque leader shot dead by federal agents in 2009 has filed a lawsuit claiming that he was unarmed and never fired at the agents as the FBI has alleged.
Filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Detroit, the lawsuit offers a different scenario from what government officials said happened inside a Dearborn warehouse on Oct. 28, 2009, when Imam Luqman Abdullah, 53, was shot 20 times by agents during an undercover sting operation that followed a three-year counter-terrorism investigation.
The FBI did not comment Tuesday on the lawsuit. It has said previously that Abdullah fired first at a police dog that was released to get him after he refused to surrender. The agents then returned fire, killing Abdullah.
The Michigan attorney general said the shooting was justified. The U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division also found no wrongdoing in the shooting death of Abdullah, who was accused of dealing in stolen goods at the warehouse.
The lawsuit is based on an affidavit of Muhammad Abdul Salaam, 48, a Detroit man with multiple criminal convictions who was with Abdullah at the time of the shooting. The suit says federal agents used excessive force to take down Abdullah and failed to give him medical attention after they shot him. In the affidavit, Salaam said Abdullah didn’t have or use any gun, and was killed by gunshots as he was trying to protect himself from the police dog. The FBI has said the dog was shot dead by Abdullah, which the lawsuit denies.
“As Abdullah struggled to prevent the canine from attacking his face, and while Abdullah was on his back, the FBI agents began shooting at him,” Salaam said in his affidavit. “Abdullah never pulled any weapon towards the canine or towards any of the FBI agents. At no time during that day did I see Abdullah carry a gun.”
In addition, Salaam said in the affidavit: “I never heard orders to show our hands, and I never heard any mention of a dog that would be released if we did not comply. Within a matter of two to three seconds, I saw a canine run in the direction of Abdullah and immediately start attacking him, including his face.”
The lawsuit says the “FBI K-9 repeatedly attacked and mauled Abdullah’s face, causing severe injuries to … his forehead, upper eyelid, left cheek, lower lip, lower jaw and both hands … tore off a denture device in the roof of Abdullah’s mouth, and caused Abdullah’s upper jaw to break.”
Salaam and others who were associates of Abdullah were arrested during the raid. In 2011, Salaam was sentenced to 27 months after he pleaded guilty to receiving and selling goods he believed were stolen and to felony possession of a firearm.
In addition, Salaam has at least five prior felony convictions from 1977 to 1985, according to the complaint filed by the FBI in October 2009. The convictions included carrying a concealed weapon, larceny and fraudulent activity. He was known as “the gun man” because of his “large cache of weapons stored at various residences, including pistols, AK-47s, Mini 14s, 45 Commandos, 12-gauge shotguns and other rifles,” the complaint said.
“Salaam is a devout follower and close associate of Luqman Ameen Abdullah,” it reads. He had a “significant position of authority within the Masjid Al-Haqq,” the Detroit mosque that Abdullah led.
Abdullah was married and had 10 children.