Was Abdullah Beard the victim of anti-Muslim police brutality?

On Thursday, September 13th, tragedy struck a Detroit family when a gunman murdered five-year-old Isabella Coleman and severely wounded her young mother, Dejiza Coleman, as they lay in bed. The subsequent investigation led Detroit law enforcement to raid a nearby house in the early hours of the morning on the 14th. By the end of the operation, Detric Driver—a local man who’d been perched on the living room couch—had been fatally shot by police. Police body-camera footage showed that Driver was holding an AR-15-style rifle when police entered the house.

Years earlier, Driver converted to Islam, changed his name to Abdullah Abdul Muhiman (and was more often known by the nickname “Dullah Beard”), and joined a national Islamist group called Ummah. Led by former Black Panther Jamil Abdullah al-Amin (otherwise known as H. Rap Brown)—who is still serving his life sentence in Colorado's Supermax prison for killing a police officer—Ummah’s goal was to establish an Islamic state inside the U.S. In 2009, 11 members of Ummah—including Dullah Beard and local violence-preaching imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah—were charged with conspiracy to commit federal crimes and arrested. (Beard entered a ‘Guilty’ plea in his plea agreement, and was sentenced to prison for time served plus two years of supervised release.)

Luqman Abdullah was killed during the police raid on their warehouse. According to the FBI, Luqman Abdullah violently resisted arrest, fired at the arresting agents, and was then killed by return fire. But since Abdullah’s 2009 death, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) seems to have taken Abdullah’s innocence—of both the conspiracy charges and the accusations of violence toward police—for granted; CAIR’s Michigan branch has filed repeated lawsuits against the FBI for Abdullah’s killing, even though the Department of Justice cleared the Bureau of wrongdoing in the case.

In 2015, The Intercept quoted CAIR-Michigan executive director Dawud Walid saying, “The entire investigation and subsequent killing of Imam Abdullah was nothing less than a cover-up, and a fraud engineered on the part of the government.” Last year, Walid posted a press release commemorating the anniversary of Abdullah’s “tragic homicide”, arguing that the FBI “smeared” the local Muslim community and lied about Abdullah’s resistance to the arrest.

Now, in the aftermath of Dullah Beard’s death, CAIR-Michigan has taken a similar stance on his case, arguing that it represents a similar manifestation of “Islamophobia”-motivated police brutality. Despite the footage of Beard’s firearm, Walid dismisses the notion of that Beard was involved in criminal activity.

On the day of the raid, Walid posted on Facebook: “The person killed was Abdullah Beard, an African American Muslim brother who was wrongfully indicted in the Imam Luqman Abdullah case 9 years ago…” Later, Walid posted an article called “Detroit Police Kill an Innocent Man; Chief James Craig Says He Deserved It.” Ultimately, on the 23rd of September, CAIR-Michigan announced that it will represent Beard’s family in a wrongful death suit, just as it did for Abdullah.

Neither CAIR nor the Detroit police have issued much further comment on the case. So the verdict remains to be seen: was Dullah Beard an innocent victim of unwarranted police bigotry and brutality? Or did he threaten police with a deadly weapon and provoke his own shooting?