The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) couldn’t confirm the citizenship status of Salman Mohamed, the 22-year-old gunman who shot at Metro Nashville Police officers earlier this month. The Tennessee Star placed an open records request with USCIS, only to be told that Mohamed’s date and place of birth would be required in order to verify Mohamed’s citizenship status. The Star offered USCIS this information: Mohamed’s full name, age, last known residence, and date of death.
After assessing your request, and consistent with 6 C.F.R. § 5.3, USCIS FOIA has determined your request did not describe the records sought in sufficient detail to enable our personnel to locate such records with a reasonable amount of effort. A date of birth and place of birth should be provided for the subject of record in order to enable our personnel to locate such records with a reasonable amount of effort. Accordingly, this office is administratively closing your request pursuant to 6 C.F.R. § 5.3(c). This administrative closure does not prejudice your ability to submit a new FOIA request. (emphasis added)
The letter directed any further inquiries to USCIS Acting Director of FOIA Operations Terri White, either by a phone number or email provided. The Star attempted to call the number multiple times, but could only make contact with a virtual assistant. The Star then emailed White to inquire about alternative options to confirm Mohamed’s citizenship status. White’s department also denied the request – though it wasn’t clear if White was responding.
Thank you for your email to Terri White, Acting Director of FOIA Operations. In response to your email, as per your final action letter, USCIS FOIA needs more information on the subject of record in order to locate records. You may file an additional FOIA request with more information that would enable our personnel to locate records regarding the individual. If you are unsatisfied with this response, you may follow the appeal instructions contained in your final action letter. (emphasis added)
News of Mohamed’s attack on police made national headlines.
As The Star reported, Mohamed had called 911 to place a false report that his brother had shot his mother inside their home. Minutes later, three officers from Metro Nashville Police Department (MNPD) responded to the scene. Mohamed shot at the officers – striking one officer, Brian Sherman, in the arm – and then fatally shot himself in the head.
In a press conference the night of the shooting, MNPD Public Information officer Don Aaron characterized Mohamed’s actions as a trap.
“The phone call […] was a ruse, a setup, to get police to the scene,” said Aaron. “No one else in the home was injured. Inside the home at the time were his mother and three siblings. None of those persons was hurt.”
In response, Mohamed’s family said that Aaron’s characterization of Mohamed’s actions was false. They claimed that Mohamed suffered from an undisclosed mental illness. They also implied that they weren’t aware of Mohamed’s death until Aaron’s press conference – making it unclear as to whether MNPD had accurately stated that the mother and three siblings were inside the home at the time of the incident.
Our son Salman has been suffering and struggling with mental health issues. We, as a family, have been searching for answers. He was an overachieving, gifted student when he was feeling well. We are devastated by the loss of our son and our lives are forever changed. Our heartfelt thanks to our brave officers and first responders; especially officer Sherman. Your family, friends, and colleagues are in our thoughts and prayers as you make a speedy recovery. Our family was informed of our son’s death by representatives of MNPD speaking to the media sharing inaccurate information. We ask that further comments from law enforcement be those reflecting demonstrable facts.
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Corinne Murdock is a reporter at The Tennessee Star and the Star News Network. Follow her latest on Twitter or email tips to [email protected].
Photo “house in community” by Metropolitan Nashville Police Department.