Friday, January 28, 2011

Lahore: Murder Charges Filed, Consulate Agrees to Make Second Employee Available to Police

The U.S. Consulate Lahore employee remains in police custody, and charges were filed against him today. A surprising new development is that, according to the WaPo story excerpted below, the Consulate has agreed to "turn the driver of the second vehicle over to police." That second vehicle struck and killed a third Pakistani while trying to get to the scene of the shooting. It seems possible that charges could be filed against that driver, as well.

An American official will face murder charges for fatally shooting two Pakistanis during an alleged robbery in the eastern city of Lahore, a prosecutor said Friday.

The American official, an employee at the U.S. consulate in Lahore, appeared in court Friday, one day after the shootout at a busy intersection, after which a second consular vehicle hit and killed a third man.

A Lahore court ordered the American, whom Pakistani authorities identified as Raymond Davis [TSB note: he was alternatively identified in some reports yesterday as "Steve Davis" and "Raymond David"; the WaPo is using "Davis" today] , to remain in police custody for six days. Rana Sanaullah, the law minister for Punjab province, of which Lahore is the capital, told reporters that Davis [sic] had also been charged with illegal weapons possession.

-- snip --

The incident has generated enormous media coverage in this fervently anti-American nation. It is being depicted as as an illustration of Americans' disregard for the common people of Pakistan, a key U.S. ally, and as a test case for whether the unpopular Pakistani government has the will to stand up to its U.S. sponsors.

-- snip --

Many Pakistani reports have questioned why the U.S. consular employee, who according to some local press accounts told Pakistani authorities he was a "technical adviser" at the consulate, was armed.

The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad has remained nearly silent, saying only that the person involved in the shootout was an American employee at the consulate. Officials have declined to confirm the name of the employee or say what position he holds, why he was carrying a gun and whether they believe he has diplomatic immunity.

The CIA declined to comment Thursday on whether the suspect worked for the agency.

Much about the chain of events surrounding the shooting remained uncertain Friday. Sanaullah said Davis told authorities he had withdrawn money from an ATM before two men on a motorbike approached his white sedan at a traffic light and displayed pistols.

After the shooting, another consular vehicle hit and killed a motorcyclist. It was unclear whether that vehicle had come to retrieve Davis from the scene or was traveling behind him. Accounts also varied as to whether the vehicle hit the third man before arriving at the shooting scene or as it sped away, with Davis inside.

Sanaullah said the American consulate in Lahore had agreed to a police request to turn the driver of the second vehicle over to police.

Pakistani news media and official sources put out a multitude of sometimes inconsistent statements yesterday, but today the story line seems to be coherent. It looks like the Pakistani motorcyclists were indeed armed, but they may not have been intending to attack the consulate employee. He may have been overly reactive to what appeared to be a classic ambush scenario; the Pakistanis may have likewise expected to be attacked for reasons of their own. It may be just this simple and tragic: two jumpy parties came in contact with each other, and the American was the first to fire.

I received an anonymous comment this morning that presented an explanation of the incident which I find 100% plausible, and which agrees with every fact about the event that I can verify. Here it is:

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.

Granted, that is an account from an anonymous source. But, a 'blue-on-blue' scenario sounds all too believable to me.

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