U.S., Pakistani officials at diplomatic odds in fatal shooting

February 9, 2011

U.S. and Pakistani officials Wednesday offered dueling accounts of the events leading up to the arrest of an American who fatally shot two men in Lahore last month and whose continued detention is at the center of an increasingly tense diplomatic standoff between the two countries.

A Pakistani official, referring to what he said were the preliminary findings of his government's investigation of the incident, said Raymond Allen Davis fired five shots at the Pakistani men from his vehicle and then got out to shoot two more at each of them as they lay on the ground in a busy intersection during midday traffic.

A U.S. official disputed the account, saying that Davis fired five shots from the Glock handgun he was carrying, all of them from within his car at what both sides agree were probably would-be robbers.

As often-conflicting details continued to emerge about what happened on the afternoon of Jan. 27, neither side budged on the core dispute between them - whether Davis, a former U.S. Special Operations sergeant who carried a U.S. diplomatic passport - is immune from prosecution by a Pakistani court.

The United States has demanded Davis's immediate release under international treaties guaranteeing immunity for diplomats. In retaliation for his continued detention, it has suspended high-level diplomatic contacts with Pakistan and warned that a planned exchange of visits this year by President Obama and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari are at risk, according to officials from both countries who spoke on the condition of anonymity about the sensitive matter.

Pakistan has refused to release Davis, indicating that he faces possible murder charges at a time when the government in Islamabad is encountering mounting public pressure to show that it is not being manipulated by Washington. The government has said that his status and the disposition of the case are matters for the courts there.

The Pakistani official warned against aggressive U.S. pressure against the weak civilian government there, saying that the issue could "spin out of control," and the administration should provide time for tempers to cool.

"No one individual in Pakistan, no one organization, can afford to take an unpopular decision at this time," he said.

But another Pakistani official said that the longer the government allows the situation to continue, the weaker it appears in the face of public pressure.

In court proceedings, Davis has admitted to the shooting but said it was done in self-defense. Davis told the court that he fired on the Pakistani men after they approached him on motorcycles brandishing weapons in what he thought was an attempted robbery.

The incident has inflamed anti-American sentiment in Pakistan, where many think that their government has been too deferential to the United States in taking part in counterterrorism operations and allowing CIA drone strikes in Pakistan's tribal belt.

The Pakistani official said his government was also angry that no U.S. official has apologized for a third, apparently inadvertent, death in the incident, that of a Pakistani cyclist run down by a car from the U.S. consulate in Lahore that unsuccessfully tried to reach Davis at the scene of the shooting before his arrest.

U.S. officials have offered incomplete and often confusing accounts of the events surrounding the shooting, Davis's identity and his assignment in Pakistan.

The State Department said Monday that Davis was a member of the "technical and administrative staff" at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad and that he had been temporarily assigned to the consulate in Lahore.

Senior State Department officials have said that Davis was not supposed to carry a weapon in Pakistan, while other U.S. officials said that he was a security contractor and did have permission to carry the weapon.

According to a Pakistani police report that has been provided to U.S. officials, items recovered in Davis's car included a portable telescope, a wallet, U.S. dollars and Pakistani rupees, a digital camera, computer memory cards, a passport, a cellphone and numerous items that appeared to come from a first-aid kit, including bandages, a "cutter" and a flashlight.

Pakistani media have also reported, and U.S. officials do not dispute, that Davis also carried multiple ATM and military ID cards and what was described as a facial disguise or makeup. The Pakistani official said Davis also carried identification cards from the U.S. consulates in Lahore and Peshawar but not from the embassy in Islamabad.

Pakistani television aired a video Wednesday that appears to show Davis being questioned by authorities after he was taken into custody. Davis identifies himself as an American and repeatedly pleads with his interrogators to help him locate a passport that he says went missing shortly after he showed it to police at the crime scene.

He identifies himself as an employee at the consulate in Lahore, saying, "I just work as a consultant there."

U.S. officials did not dispute the authenticity of the video.

The shooting, as well as ambiguous answers from U.S. officials about whether Davis was part of the CIA, have fanned speculation that the incident was not a botched robbery but a deadly confrontation between spies. A Pakistani intelligence official told The Washington Post that the motorcyclists were intelligence agents; a spokesman for Pakistan's main intelligence agency denied that Tuesday.

U.S. and Pakistani officials agreed that the police report, written in Urdu, indicates that the two Pakistanis who were killed had robbed two individuals earlier in the day and taken their cellphones, which were found in their possession at the crime scene. These robbery victims came forward independently after seeing television coverage of the crime, saying they recognized the two Pakistanis who were shot by the U.S. official.

The report indicates that at least one of the motorcycle men cocked a weapon and aimed it at Davis while he was stopped at a traffic signal, but that neither of the Pakistani men fired. "One cocked a pistol and pointed it at him," a U.S. official said.

The two slain Pakistanis were found in possession of five cellular phones, a Rolex-style watch and four different types of currency, the report indicates.

U.S. Army records indicate that Davis, a native of Virginia, spent a decade in the military before being discharged in 2003. He is identified as a special operations weapons sergeant whose last assignment was with the 3rd Special Forces Group based at Fort Bragg, N.C.

Davis also served in infantry units, as well as part of a United Nations peacekeeping force in Macedonia in 1994. Public records indicate that after his military career, Davis served as an officer of a private security firm known as Hyperion Protective Services, based in Nevada.

millergreg@washpost.com deyoungk@washpost.com

Correspondent Karin Brulliard in Islamabad and staff researcher Julie Tate in Washington contributed to this report.

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