When FBI Special Agent Aaron McFarlane, 41, shot and killed an individual of interest in the Boston Marathon bombing operation, a few police officials were reportedly confused. McFarlane allegedly was collecting $52,488 a year in medical disability benefits under the California Public Employees’ Retirement System after an injury with the Oakland police. Yet, he appeared to be working as a FBI special agent. Oakland officials are reportedly investigating how such double dipping is possible for an officer who was relieved of duty “due to an illness or injury that is expected to be permanent or of an undetermined duration.” Not only have many asked how the FBI could hire an officer with a medial disability pension and a checkered past, but criticize the FBI over what was viewed as obstructive conduct during an investigation of the shooting.
McFarlane took medical disability in 2004 — only four years after he joined the force as a patrol officer. McFarlane lifetime payments reportedly include a 2 percent cost-of-living allowance for each of the past 10 years.
McFarlane fatally shot Ibragim Todashev, 27, in his Orlando apartment on May 22, 2013. He said that Todashev flung a table at him and brandished a metal pole at a Massachusetts state trooper before he killed him. Some raises concerns over the shooting because it followed more than four hours of questioning by McFarlane and two state troopers about Todashev’s connection to one of the two men accused of planting the bombs. Given the number of officers and the lack of a firearm, there were questions raises about the necessity of using lethal force. Notably, when the incident was being investigated, the FBI refused to allow McFarlane to be interviewed on tape by the government’s investigator and would only allow him to review a written statement from McFarlane.
It is unclear how McFarlane could make the FBI given his claim of medical disability as well as a rather checkered past. Before taking medical leave, McFarlane was connected to “the Riders” scandal where four other Oakland officers were accused of beating and planting drugs on suspects. McFarlane testified for the defense and took the Fifth Amendment when a prosecutor suggested that he had lied on a police report. The officers were not convicted. However, city settled a related federal lawsuit for $10.9 million and the department remains under court oversight after the Riders scandal. McFarlane himself was sued by a man who accused him of beating him. Recent stories report an array of other lawsuits involving McFarlane.
What is most disturbing about the articles linked above is the lack of transparency and cooperation of the FBI during the shooting investigation and the current controversy. This may have to be a matter for congressional oversight. At the moment (as is often the case) it is the media that has driven most of the disclosures in this scandal.