Boston police and the FBI stopped a potential terrorist attack in Boston last week, shooting Muslim radical Usama Rahim (pictured above) three times after he lunged at them with a knife. It was the second time in less than a month law enforcement officers thwarted a homegrown terrorist attack.
More than a week after the incident took place, there is still disagreement over whether police acted correctly. Did they stop a terrorist attack, or commit a heinous act of police brutality?
The facts are pretty clear – the guy was a known jihadi who refused repeated orders to disarm. But the confusion around this case illustrates a challenge police face on a daily basis. Every time an officer goes into a dangerous situation, he has to decide in a split second whether someone is a serious threat or an innocent civilian.
The rise of homegrown terror means the stakes for police are much higher. Is the person behaving erratically somebody who is mentally ill, or another Usama Rahim? Is the person running toward them just an angry civilian, or another Ismaaiyl Brinsley? Is the person carrying a rifle on the street a fringe open carry protester, or the member of an Islamist group?
It has taken the media a week to figure out what happened in Boston. And yet police make the same kind of decision every day in the blink of an eye.