Thursday, January 27, 2011

Curious Incident in Lahore, Pakistan

First reports are invariably wrong to greater or lesser extents, so take the following news with a grain of salt.

Pakistani news media are reporting that a U.S. citizen, whom they describe as an employee of U.S. Consulate Lahore, shot two Pakistanis to death Thursday night in self-defense, and that a third Pakistani was killed in a traffic accident caused by a consulate vehicle that came to the scene to extricate the U.S. citizen from a crowd that formed after the shooting.

So far, I've seen no official confirmation that the American involved, who was identified by local press reports as Raymond Davis, actually is an employee of the consulate, the Department of State, or any other U.S. government agency. Maybe he is, maybe he isn't. Maybe he's a contractor, maybe a TDYer. All I know is that I didn't find the name "Raymond Davis" in the current Key Officers List.

Whatever else he is, he is the subject of a big public relations problem at the moment.

Details of the incident vary a bit from source to source, but here's the version carried on MSNBC this morning:

LAHORE, Pakistan — An American consular employee traveling in a car in Pakistan shot and killed two armed men on a motorcycle as they tried to rob him on Thursday, police said. A pedestrian was also killed by a speeding American car trying to help, an officer said.

The employee, who the U.S. embassy said worked for the American consulate in Lahore, was sitting in his car at a traffic signal when two men chasing him aboard a motorcycle opened fire.

The man returned the fire in self-defense, police told Reuters, wounding the two attackers, who both died later in the hospital. Police said a consulate car that came to the scene later struck and killed a pedestrian.

Aslam Tarim, Lahore police chief, said in broadcast comments that the U.S. national had been taken into custody at a police station.

Police official Omar Saeed had earlier told Reuters the man had opened fire in self-defense.

"We are investigating whether it was a robbery attempt or something else," he said.

GEO-TV has video of the public protests that followed the incident.

Reuters has a good still photo of the car that is in police custody today.

I see an ordinary (non-armored) sedan with ordinary (non-diplomatic) plates, and its rear window shattered. Reportedly, the front windshield was punctured in several places. I'm sure the police will be able to determine whether the car provides any forensic evidence that clarifies what happened.

Several local news media are reporting that police have also taken into custody a pistol and three cell phones.

One local press report added a couple interesting tidbits about the incident:

Witnesses said they had seen the two armed trying to hold up the US national. They said they had then seen the American firing at the two men. The US national took photos of the two men after they fell to the ground on being hit by bullets, the witnesses said.

The American spoke in Urdu and told people who surrounded his car that he had acted in self-defence, they said. People protested in the area after the incident and burnt tyres to block roads.

So what do we have here, assuming the news reports are accurate? A U.S. citizen associated with the consulate who was driving himself around Lahore alone in a local vehicle, and who reacted to an apparent ambush by firing at two armed men. After which he had the presence of mind to photograph the scene and then to explain himself to the crowd of locals who had come to see what had happened.

And that's all I have to say about that, to quote Forrest Gump. I'm sure an official statement from the embassy or the Department spokesman will come later today.


A Daring Adventure said...

Oh my gosh, TSB, no matter who he ends up being, I am desperately hoping that this poor man entered Pakistan on a dip passport. This is SO terrifying.

Thank you so much for already having something up about this. We had read about it a bit from other sources, but no one writes about things like this half as well as you do. We love your blog.

Anonymous said...

NPR says Emb Islamabad "confirmed that the staffer is an American who works at the consulate in Lahore"

(saw it on Diplopundit)

Anonymous said...

Saw it on Diplopundit, NPR says Emb has confirmed it was a Consulate Lahore employee.

NoDoubleStandards said...

Doesn't appear to be in the GAL. Wonder what his position actually is.

TSB said...

Police are quoted saying David is a "technical adviser," and I'm interpreting that to mean he is on the technical and administrative staff list, vice diplomatic or consular. So his diplomatic immunity is limited.

The use of a non-armored vehicle, and the fact that he was driving it himself, normally indicates a non-Chief of Mission employee, such as a contractor. I believe contractors can be accredited as T&A staff; I was once when I was an in-house contractor.

The use of a Beretta pistol might suggest a DOD employee, either civilian or military, since other agencies use other sidearms.

My completely ballpark guess is that he's a DOD support guy, e.g., communicator or similar, who is detailed to the embassy. And before going to Pakistan he had the usual force protection training on driving and 'attack recognition', which in his case really seems to have paid off.

John Burgess said...

About 10 years ago, there was a similar case in Mexico City. The two motorcyclists happened to be cops, though. They were trying to rob him at gunpoint.

The American, also DOD, was out of the country by the next morning.

TSB said...

Thanks. By the way, I just visited Crossroad Arabia and I'm adding it to my blog roll.

I hope they can get Davis out, but with the explosive political climate in Pakistan, that would be a very bold move by the embassy.

In addition to the shooting, there is also the matter of the consulate's rescue vehicle that ran over - according to seemingly credible Pakistani reports - one motorcyclist and three pedestrians while driving on the wrong side of the road to get to Davis. That will keep public interest high even if the two dead guys are eventually proven to have been carjackers.

Anonymous said...

Here are the facts: The two people he shot dead were returning from a court hearing where one of them was a witness in a murder case. One of the murder victim’s brother had been murdered a month ago and he was carrying a licensed handgun for his own protection, fearing for his own life. Raymond David, the US Consulate ‘Technical Advisor’ comes out of a bank after withdrawing some money from an ATM machine. It just so happens that these two guys on the motorcycle pass by his car as he leaves the bank. At a traffic stop, Raymond sees the sidearm of one of the guys and pulls out his gun as a precuation. The guy on the motorcycle, who himself is paranoid about his own life, sees Raymond and the gun and grabs his own piece. At that moment Raymond fires 14 shots through the windshield of his car at both the motorcycle guys killing both. They were shot from behind. He then takes pictures of the two dead people and starts to leave the scene of the crime. At this moment eye-witnesses start to chase him. Raymond calls for back up. A back-up vehicle arrives in minutes and sees the traffic jam and takes the incoming lane on the wrong side to get to Raymond. In the process it hits two pedestrians, one of whom is killed. It then speeds away (i.e. hit and run). In the meantime a traffic warden and eyewitnesses stop Raymond’s car, which is blocked by a traffic jam. A couple of angry people shatter his rear window and his back light. The traffic warden gets into Raymond’s car and takes him to the local police station.

TSB said...


That description fits all the facts that I've seen in the public record, and is completely plausible. A sad situation.

Anonymous said...

i humbly request my govt to tke action on this seriously.when any Pakistani gets arrested in U.S.A he is called a when they do this they named it self defense or like this any other wrong excuse

TSB said...


I see that the U.S. citizen is in Pakistani police custody, and also that this case has been discussed on the floor of your Parliament, so there does not appear to be any lack of government action.