The New York Times has an excellent article about the case of Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah, who died in a shootout with the FBI in Detroit on Wednesday. Mr. Abdullah was apparently well known by the FBI, had a past criminal record, and wasn’t known for being a shrinking violet. It is possible that he also died of terminal stupidity by firing a weapon in the presence of law enforcement. As the Times and other papers report it, the FBI confronted Mr. Abdullah in a warehouse where he was housing stolen property. Once they confronted him, it’s possible there was no way for them to have avoided shooting him, given that he fired shots.
I wonder, however, if they confronted him in the right way. To be sure, this is Monday morning quarterbacking, but in my experience, that is how we learn. Sometimes it is possible to request that people turn themselves in. This avoids any violence, at the risk that the individual will flee. Was that a reasonable risk to take in this case?
Once they decided that they needed to arrest him, would it have made sense to do so in another venue? Certainly there is a risk to law enforcement when they arrest someone at home, as that person may be hiding weapons in the house, and certainly knows the layout better than the cops.
Would it have been better to nab him on the way out of his house? He may have been on parole. Could his parole officer have requested him to come in?
My point: it’s not clear cut to me that the FBI did the wrong or the right thing. We’ll probably never know, but hopefully someone asked and answered these questions before the they confronted Mr. Abdullah in that warehouse. Otherwise maybe it could well be that police/siege mentality contributed to this man’s death.