Brazilian shot by police on London Underground was not acting suspiciously

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Tuesday, August 16, 2005

London Underground

Documents, reportedly leaked from the investigation into the death of Jean Charles de Menezes, the Brazilian electrician shot dead by British Police on the London Underground on 22 July reveal that Mr de Menezes was not acting suspiciously and was already restrained when shot.

Furthermore, the documents reveal that the original report given by the police and recorded on the coroners report contained many false statements. The reports suggest the police shot Jean Charles de Menezes because they mistakenly identified him as Hussain Osman, and had agreed to shoot him if he ran. Hussain Osman was suspected of having placed a faulty or mock explosive in a train.

The original reports claimed that de Menezes was acting suspiciously, was wearing a padded jacket, and ran when challenged, even vaulting the ticket barriers. However, the leaked documents, which include statements from officers involved in the operation and photographs of the scene, show that he behaved like any other commuter, used his travel pass to enter the station, even picking up a newspaper on his way. He was not challenged by police, and appears to have been unaware of being followed until after he entered the train. Photographic stills show he was only wearing a light denim jacket. It appears that he only ran in order to reach a train that was about to leave the platform.

The leaked document describes CCTV footage, which shows Mr de Menezes entered Stockwell station at a "normal walking pace" and descended slowly on an escalator.

The document said: "At some point near the bottom he is seen to run across the concourse and enter the carriage before sitting in an available seat."

An eye witness, who was sitting opposite de Menezes on the train, is quoted as saying: "Within a few seconds I saw a man coming into the double doors to my left. He was pointing a small black handgun towards a person sitting opposite me. He pointed the gun at the right hand side of the man's head. The gun was within 12 inches of the man's head when the first shot was fired."

This report is considerably different to initial reports that claimed de Menezes tripped as he fled onto the train, before being restrained by pursuing officers and shot. Photographs leaked to ITN appear to corroborate this new witness's report as they clearly show blood on the seat in which de Menezes is said to have been sitting.

Other statements suggest that the Brazilian was seated before being pinned down by a plain-clothed police officer. Plainclothed armed officers had entered the carriage at this point. Several shots were then fired and de Menezes was hit seven times in the head and once in the shoulder. Three further shots missed Mr Menezes.

A community officer's report (one of the leaked documents) confirms that Mr. de Menezes was seated and restrained at the time of being shot:

"I heard shouting which included the word ‘police’ and turned to face the male in the denim jacket.

"He immediately stood up and advanced towards me and the CO19 [the armed unit] officers …I grabbed the male in the denim jacket by wrapping both my arms around his torso, pinning his arms to his side.

"I then pushed him back onto the seat where he had been previously sitting … I then heard a gun shot very close to my left ear and was dragged away onto the floor of the carriage."

The leaked documents confirm that Police had been given permission to shoot if a suspect was non-compliant, having been told that "unusual tactics" may be required and if they "were deployed to intercept a subject and there was an opportunity to challenge, but if the subject was non compliant, a critical shot may be taken." It is thought that when he ran for the train officers felt this was suitable evidence of "non-compliance".

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said its priority was to keep Mr de Menezes family informed and refused to comment on the details of the leak.

The commission said the family "will clearly be distressed that they have received information on television concerning his death".

In an interview with the Guardian Newspaper, Asad Rehman, spokesman for the family's campaign, called for a public inquiry. "This was not an accident," he said. "It was serious neglect. Clearly, there was a failure both in police intelligence and on an operational level."

Harriet Wistrich, the family's solicitor expressed concerns, during an interview with ITN, that the Police had withheld information from the investigation for a longer period than was permitted under UK law. Ms. Wistrich also claimed, in a separate interview with the BBC, that the documents suggest that the original information given to the pathologist who carried out the post-mortem examination on Mr de Menezes was incorrect and that the information the leaked documents contained was "shocking and terrifying".

"What sort of society are we living in where we can execute suspects?" she asked in the BBC interview.

An unnamed senior police source told the Guardian that the leaked documents and statements give an accurate picture of what was known so far about the shooting. Former Flying Squad commander John O'Connor told the BBC "had the normal procedures taken place in which a warning is given and officers wear specially marked clothing then this young man may not have been killed."

The IPCC statement added: "The IPCC made it clear that we would not speculate or release partial information about the investigation, and that others should not do so. That remains the case."

Mark Oaten, Home Affairs Spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, said: "If true, these preliminary findings will create obvious concerns. It is in the best interests of the police and the community for the full report and any recommendations, to be published as quickly as possible."

Sources

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