The FBI doesn't shoot by mistake, says the FBI

The agency's reported perfect record with 150 shootings over 20 years raises eyebrows over internal reviews

Published June 19, 2013 1:08PM (EDT)


The FBI's record is faultless, according to the FBI. The New York Times highlighted Wednesday that according to internal investigations carried out by the agency on 150 shootings of the last two decades, not one has been deemed improper. In light of a recent incident when an unarmed friend of Tamerlan Tsarnaev was shot dead during closed-door questioning by an FBI agent last month -- leading to changing official accounts and anger from the man's friends and family -- an internal investigation was launched. But as the Times points out, going by numbers alone, such internal reviews have an air of rubber stamping:

From 1993 to early 2011, F.B.I. agents fatally shot about 70 “subjects” and wounded about 80 others — and every one of those episodes was deemed justified, according to interviews and internal F.B.I. records obtained by The New York Times through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

The last two years have followed the same pattern: an F.B.I. spokesman said that since 2011, there had been no findings of improper intentional shootings.

In most of the shootings, the F.B.I.’s internal investigation was the only official inquiry. In the Orlando case, for example, there have been conflicting accounts about basic facts like whether the Chechen man, Ibragim Todashev,attacked an agent with a knife, was unarmed or wasbrandishing a metal pole. But Orlando homicide detectives are not independently investigating what happened.

...Critics say the fact that for at least two decades no agent has been disciplined for any instance of deliberately shooting someone raises questions about the credibility of the bureau’s internal investigations. Samuel Walker, a professor of criminal justice at the University of Nebraska Omaha who studies internal law enforcement investigations, called the bureau’s conclusions about cases of improper shootings “suspiciously low.”

By Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email

MORE FROM Natasha Lennard

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Fbi Ibragim Todashev Internal Investigations Shooting Tamerlan Tsarnaev