Pakistani Police: U.S. Man Committed 'Murder'

Investigators have determined that an American who shot dead two Pakistanis was not acting in self-defense and police will recommend he face murder charges, a Pakistani police official said Friday in a case that has roiled relations between the counterterrorism allies.

The U.S. says the American, 36-year-old Raymond Allen Davis, shot the Pakistanis on Jan. 27 because they were trying to rob him in the eastern city of Lahore. Washington insists his detention is illegal under international agreements covering diplomats because he was a U.S. Embassy staffer, and American officials have begun curbing diplomatic contacts and threatening to cut off billions in aid to Pakistan if he is not freed.

Pakistani leaders - loathe to incur a backlash in a public already rife with anti-U.S. sentiment - have for days avoided making definitive statements on Davis' legal status, instead saying the issue is up to the courts. The fact that rival political parties control the federal government and the government of Punjab province, where any trial would be held, is further complicating the Pakistani response.

Hours after a judge ordered that Davis be held for 14 more days and told the government to determine whether he has diplomatic immunity, Lahore police chief Aslam Tareen stoked more fury by declaring that a police probe determined Davis was not defending himself.

"It was an intentional and cold blooded murder," Tareen told a news conference.

The police chief said Davis told interrogators that one of the Pakistani men had pointed his pistol at him.

However, Tareen said the slain man's pistol had been examined and officers found that all the bullets were in the magazine and no bullet was found in the chamber. Police also determined that the American shot and killed the second Pakistani as he tried to flee, hitting him in the back, Tareen said.

Tareen's remarks left open the possibility that the man with the empty pistol had still pointed the gun at the American. The police chief said the issue of diplomatic immunity was a government matter but that the police have sent a preliminary charge sheet recommending Davis face a murder trial.

American officials did not immediately respond to repeated requests for comment Friday. However, the judge's agreement with a defense motion that the government must clarify whether Davis has immunity could give the U.S. representatives some room to maneuver with their Pakistani counterparts.

Davis is to be held in a jail in the Kot Lakhpat area of Lahore, said Abdus Samad, a government prosecutor in the case who briefed reporters after the Friday court session, which was closed to media. His next court appearance is set for Feb. 25. Samad said that Judge Anik Anwar also agreed to get the government's response on a defense request that any trial in the case be held out of public view.

Pakistani leaders may not want to risk anger within the population if they let Davis go, but the cash-strapped country relies on billions in aid from the U.S., which needs its cooperation to help end the war in Afghanistan.

Exactly what sort of work Davis does for the U.S. is a major issue because it could affect Pakistani determinations about his diplomatic immunity.

U.S. officials in Islamabad will say only that he was an American Embassy employee who was considered part of the "administrative and technical staff." That designation gives him blanket immunity, the U.S. says.

There has also been controversy in Pakistan over the fact that Davis was armed. A senior U.S. official has told The Associated Press that Davis was authorized by the United States to carry a weapon, but that it was a "gray area" whether Pakistani law permitted him to do so.

Long before Davis emerged on the public consciousness, conspiracy theories about armed American mercenaries roaming the country were common among the population and sections of the media here.

According to records from the Pentagon, the 36-year-old Davis is a former Special Forces soldier who left the army in August 2003 after 10 years of service. A Virginia native, he served with infantry divisions prior to joining the 3rd Special Forces Group in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

In 1994, he was part of the U.N. peacekeeping force in Macedonia. His record includes several awards and medals, including for good conduct.

Public records also show Davis runs a company with his wife registered in Las Vegas called Hyperion Protective Services, though it was not immediately clear whether the company has had many contracts with the U.S. government.

The U.S. Embassy says he has a diplomatic passport and a visa valid through June 2012. It also said in a recent statement that the U.S. had notified the Pakistani government of Davis' assignment more than a year ago.

After the shootings in Lahore on Jan. 27, Davis called for backup. The American car rushing to the scene hit a third Pakistani, a bystander, who later died. The U.S. has said nothing about the Americans involved in that third death, though Pakistani police have said they want to question them as well.

This program aired on February 11, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.


More from WBUR

Listen Live