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Stockwell Shooting Questions

By sizemore Last edited 143 months ago
Stockwell Shooting Questions

The news that another suspect has been arrested in connection with last Thursday's bombing attempt has failed to make the headlines in the wake of Jean Charles de Menezes' death. That alone is a gage of the public and media's shock that the 27 year old Brazilian could be shot five times in the head after being mistaken for a terrorist.

The police remain pig headed in their reaction, releasing little fresh information and going so far as to suggest that more innocent people may be shot. Sir Ian Blair:

It wasn't just a random event and what's most important to recognise is that it's still happening out there. Somebody else could be shot but everything is done to make it right.

It definitely wasn't a random event and of course it's still happening - the poor bastard was only on his way to work. This morning 7 million other people are doing the exact same thing. Already wary of others around them following the attacks are Londoners now going to have to think twice before running for a train in case plain clothes armed police have them in their sights?

All it takes for a repeat of this tragedy is one kid to rush for a train wearing a backpack with his hood up and iPod plugged in. He'd hear no warning, see nothing from his peripheral vision and therefore be deemed a legitimate target when he failed to stop.

Friday's response by the police (if that is who the armed officers were - there is speculation that they were MI5 or even special forces) was overkill in more than one sense of the word. Friday evening experts were still justifying these actions, but before the five headshots were confirmed. At that point we were told time and time again that five shots to the torso would have little chance of setting off the explosives as the small detonator would have to be hit before triggering an explosion. Now it seems that there is only one sure way to stop a suicide bomber determined to fulfill his mission: destroy his brain instantly, utterly.

Great. Now all we need is a foolproof way to identify that a person is a suicide bomber before he reveals himself. How many people do we shoot until one of them turns out to be a bad guy? 3 million people use the tube daily and less than ten people so far have tried to blow it up - you do the maths.

The excuse that this man MAY have been a bomber and therefore the police were acting to save innocent lives was a weak one when it was used as a reason for invading Iraq. Sure Saddam MAY have had WMDs and the US and UK acted only to save innocent lives, but the fact that that also turned out to bullshit kind of weakens the argument.

London is not under siege. We do not need a level of protection that MAY result in more deaths of innocent people. It seems that the tactics used on Friday mimicked those used by Israeli security forces, but again does it really need pointing out that the menace we face is NOTHING like the one faced by Israel.

Why are the populace being told time and time again to go about their business as normal if the police are allowed to over-react and act completely out of character?

More clarification and questions still remain unanswered about the death of Jean Charles de Menezes. When exactly did his surveillance begin and why wasn't he stopped before the tube station? Did he really jump the barriers? When and exactly how was the police presence revealed to him? Was his entrance to the tube station captured on CCTV and if so why hasn't that also been released along with the suspected bomber's footage? Londoners are keen to see for themselves the 'bulky' jacket and 'odd' actions that resulted in this man's death.

BBC: 'Shoot-to-kill' policy to remain

New York Times: Regrets, but No Apology

As always, comments and discussion below are welcome.

Last Updated 25 July 2005

Don't Shoot

It has been a few hours and I have already seen people wearing the 'DON'T SHOOT I AM NOT A TERRORIST" T-Shirt on the subway, and I started thinking, if the brazilian boy had been wearing one of those, he probably would still be alive...a shirt that can actually save your life.
The shirt can be found here if you are interested: http://www.cafepress.com/00ps....

Matt Ashby

Don't hold your breath for more information on the Stockwell shooting before the start of the inquest or any criminal proceedings. The whole thing is sub judice so the police won't give out any information that could prejudice any subsequent trial (either of the bombers or the police officers involved in the shooting) and the announcement this morning that the dead man's family plan to sue the Met make it even more likely that we'll hear very little more outside of court.


There's very little prospect of seeing the CCTV footage from Stockwell station either; it's not usual for the police to release evidence to the public ahead of a trial -- they only do it when they think it might help members of the public identify a suspect (as in the case of the bombers) or jog people's memories about when they last saw a victim (as in the case of Jeshma Raithatha). The police certainly aren't going to release the CCTV so that the press can judge whether the shooting was justified or not -- the police are held to account via the courts and the Police Authority, and they aren't going to prejudice an investigation to satisfy our curiosity.


Before you decide if the police did "over-react", please consider the situation that the police officer is in at the moment he opens fire. He and his colleagues have already identified that the person they are looking at might be a serious threat to the lives of the people around him. They have challenged the man and he has made off, fleeing not into a local estate or down a side street but only onto a tube train, seemingly with extreme purpose. Despite being told several times to stop and despite being told that the police are armed, he still runs. The police know that at any moment he might detonate a bomb that not only kills him but also the police officers and everyone else in the carriage. If they try to search him he might detonate the device. If they try to handcuff him he might detonate the device. If they try to negotiate he might detonate the device. Even if they do nothing, delaying for a second to consider what they should do, he might detonate the device.


How would you feel if the officer had not shot this man, and he had then gone on to detonate a bomb that killed 20 people? How would you feel if you knew someone who was killed in the explosion? What would you think of the police officers who hadn't fired because there was a chance that despite this man's apparently extremely suspicious behaviour he might not be a bomber? What would you think of the police officers who could have saved your friend but didn't? Would you congratulate them for not "over-reacting"?


Armed police have massive incentives not to fire their weapons, even in traditional armed incidents. In the cases of Harry Stanley (where police shot a man who brandished a table leg inside a carrier bag that looked like a shot gun) and Derek Bennett (shot after pointing a cigarette lighter that was an exact copy of a handgun), officers were criticised for opening fire even though they had no way to know that they were not having real firearms pointed at them. Even in cases where police have shot people who were threatening members of the public with real guns, the officers know that they face criticism and possible imprisonment. Every time a police officer shoots someone, he knows that he will face years of investigations and possible criminal charges, with all the distress that will cause to him and his family. For this reason alone, we know that police officers do not shoot people unless they can see no other way to resolve the situation.


Armed police in London put them selves in danger every day of their working lives. They don't get paid any more than unarmed officers, even though they face many extra risks and undergo intensive extra training. Should we make sure that they have the best training possible to minimise the risk of mistakes? Yes. Should we review procedures to make sure that the police are as effective as possible in identifying who is a threat and who is not? Of course. Should we investigate police shootings to make sure everything was done legally and to see if there are any lessons to be learnt? Definitely. But even if the police, and we in society, do all this, mistakes will still occur. The police might have the best training and practice that money can buy, but armed police officers are only human and (like everyone else in every job in the country) will unfortunately never be perfect.

Jonathan

Matt - fantastic comment. I was just about to comment the what if he *had* been a bomber and they *hadn't* shot him thought. Damned if you do and damned if you don't.

Darren

Matt: spot on. Just what I was thinking but wasn't able to put across as well as you. If it is true that he took flight and leapt the barriers then I'm not sure what else the police could have done. Had he turned out to be strapped with explosives everyone would be calling the police heros now. Tragic but this death should be listed as another victim of the terrorists IMHO.

lor

matt, some very good points, but to me, five times in the head is an "over-reaction" any way you swing it. perhaps it was the adrenaline, the nerves, the fear, but 5 times at close range in the head? that's excessive.

Aaron Gozland

I thought calling the police pigs went out with Scargill and Citizen Smith, let's keep to the challenges of the 21st century and not go back huh?

There are so few facts about the shooting that there is nothing to be gained slagging off the police until we know more.

I do think our London world has changed on 7th July and so as commuters and citizens, we have to modify our behaviour and attitude to respond to the new risks we face as the 'meat in the sandwich' of deadly police and terrorist operations that will now continue for decades.

We do have to think and behave more defensively and return to the level of alertness we had during the IRA bombings during our daily lives.

Personally I accept the police will now have to use deadly force if they think we are at risk of suicide bombers, and accept there will be collateral damage because there are no certainties in life and hindsight can't help at the moment.

Horrendus mistakes were made during the hunt for the IRA terrorists, but ultimately it became harder for the IRA to operate on the mainland.

Personally, I still want The Met Police to always be between me and a suspected suicide bomber, the terrible price I pay is the authority that means I have given them and the possible consequences of this deal.

mike

They have challenged the man and he has made off, fleeing not into a local estate or down a side street but only onto a tube train, seemingly with extreme purpose. Despite being told several times to stop and despite being told that the police are armed, he still runs.

Still waiting for all that to be clarified.

The guy got on a bus BEFORE he got near the tube and yet that wasn't a threat for the very same reasons you outline above?

How would you feel if the officer had not shot this man, and he had then gone on to detonate a bomb that killed 20 people?

I would feel that the police need better procedures to stop the man they had under surveillance well before he reached the tube. At no point during the aftermath of the first bombing did I wish that police had been present shooting firearms.

Firing a weapon is a last resort - not only is there the chance of killing an innocent suspect there's also the chance that the police miss and hit someone else.

I don't expect the police (armed or otherwise) to be perfect, but I do expect them to react with an appropriate level of response. 20 armed men rushing down the tube after a man they have been following for some time (if indeed the man they shot turns out to be the same man they were trailing) is a disorganised and ill informed response to mistakes already made.

Asking me how I'd feel if someone I knew died at the hands of terrorist is a moot point. My reactions would be clouded by grief and anger and if I turned up on the tube gunning for people who 'seemed' to be terrorists that would be as wrong as what the police did on Friday.

Damned if you do and damned if you don't

No. Damned if you do because the man you kill is innocent and not damned if you don't because NOTHING would have happened.

The argument that the man MAY have turned out to be carrying explosives is insane. He didn't. Yes questions would have been asked if it turned out the man police followed then killed people BUT preempting a killer - killing him BEFORE he kills - is something we should be reading about in Science Fiction and not the newspapers.

The policemen who shot an innocent man carrying a chair leg were not damned either way either - they were simply guilty of murder.

More armed police is not going to stop terrorism. The acceptance of a 'shoot to kill' policy by Londoners and excusing the events of Friday as a 'mistake' simply makes London a more dangerous place. Communities already fearing prejudice in the wake of the attacks now fear for their lives. That's not a city I want to live in.

Had he turned out to be strapped with explosives everyone would be calling the police heros now

True. And that in itself may have clouded the officer's actions.

mike

Aaron - I had to re-read my post to catch the 'pig' name calling reference. That wasn't my intention. I'm from the north originally and 'pig-headed' is simply my way of saying stubborn - trust me if I wanted to call the police names I'd just use the word 'cunt' a lot - I'm not that subtle.

I disagree that much has changed since the 7th. We didn't suffer a 9-11 and even the American reaction to that colossal event was overplayed.

I'm more concerned about being hit by a car than I am being caught in a terrorist blast.

If I'm not over reacting to a few idiots with crappy bombs then I won't justify the police's actions either.

I'd rather the Met stand between me and American tourists asking for directions because that is still more their job than running around with guns.

Tim Watt

Another issue is why, when they say they are looking for public cooperation, the Met have repeatedly released false information? (Or allowed it reported in the media)?

More on this here: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07...

Matt Ashby

Mike, you seem to have a view of self-defence that is at odds with the law as it stands.

You comment that killing someone before they commit a crime is something that should be reserved for the realm of science fiction. While I agree with you that it is not the job of the police or the courts to take action against someone because they might commit a crime in the future (either by locking them up or by shooting them), there is a long-accepted exemption from this if you reasonably believe that someone right in front of you is about to commit a crime right now.

Section 3 of the Criminal Law Act 1967 gives "a person" (which includes you, me and the police) the power to "use such force as is reasonable in the circumstances in the prevention of crime". It is this power that allows police officers to shoot people, and it explicitly applies before the crime is committed. Your first response to this may well be that shooting someone five times in the head is not "reasonable" force.

While I'm not quite sure why five shots were necessary (in previous cases where the police have shot someone, one shot has been quite sufficient to kill them), shooting is usually defined as "reasonable" in these circumstances because it is the minimum force that is guaranteed to stop the person from detonating any explosive device that they might be carrying. People often ask "why can't they shoot him in the arm/hand/leg/foot?", to which the answer is of course that someone who is injured can still use a gun or set off a bomb (as many soldiers in battle have learnt to their cost).

As for the case of Harry Stanley, I don't really believe that you think that someone who shoots a man while being threatened with what they think is a shotgun is a murderer. My personal opinion (which incidentally is the opinion of the Crown Prosecution Service and the opinion of the High Court) is that the police officers shot Mr Stanley in self defence because they believed their lives were in immediate danger. This is a defence against murder, manslaughter and grievous bodily harm, which is why the CPS didn't proceed with a prosecution in the first place.

All this will come out in the wash, anyway. There will be an inquest into Mr Menezes' death (as with all sudden deaths), and the shooting will be investigated by the Met's Directorate of Professional Standards and probably also by another police service under the direction of the Independent Police Complaints Commission. Thus in three or four year's time we will finally know what happened. Unfortunately these investigations take time and so before then we'll probably have to endure a lot more speculation, both well informed and not so well informed.

Note: I'm not a lawyer

mike

I hope it's just speculation about this single case that we have to endure because so far the police don't seem to be in a hurry to reassess the procedures that lead to this mistake.

Admitting it may happen again is not my idea of good policing and does nothing to allay the concerns of the Muslim community or indeed any Londoner unlucky enough to end up on the wrong end of an incompetent investigation.

Kief

For me the bottom line is that, after the revelation that the "bomber shot by police at Stockwell" (as the Evening Standard poster boards were still saying yesterday) was completely innocent, I feel less safe traveling to and from work on the tube that I did before. I've stopped carrying a rucksack, and will think twice about wearing a jacket on a chilly July morning.

Cpill

Its a simple equation:
People get blown up = more power to the government (and their thugs with guns)

I noted the Australian PM started the scare tactics on the Ozy population: "Australia could be next" type stuff. The American media is more worked up than the British over it all. It servers to booster the power of the hard right. Gives governments a mandate to do what they like.

As a side note nothing the police have or can do can stop 'terrorism'. Its like tiring to fight 'crying'. There are no victory conditions for ether side. The cops had 4 opportunities to capture some bombers last Thursday (note: they couldn’t have stopped them since they were only aware of it after the fact) and nothing. All those cameras and guns and blocking off streets. Nothing.

Increasing the power of the cops won't stop bombings. Didn't stop the IRA. It just removes civil liberties and people start dying randomly with no explanation being offered.

Sounds a bit Orwellian doesn’t it.

stanley

Matt wrote:

"Before you decide if the police did "over-react", please consider the situation that the police officer is in at the moment he opens fire. He and his colleagues have already identified that the person they are looking at might be a serious threat to the lives of the people around him. They have challenged the man and he has made off, fleeing not into a local estate or down a side street but only onto a tube train, seemingly with extreme purpose. Despite being told several times to stop and despite being told that the police are armed, he still runs."

This all hinges on your naive acceptance of the police version of events.

The, police, after realizing they had shot an unarmed man, had time, before they spoke to the press, to concoct a story that would prejudice the gullible against this man by making his actions (or the police version of his actions) seem unreasonable.

I find it shocking that you are able to get inside the cops' mindset, imagining "split-second decisons" and other alibis, yet show no empathy for the man who was killed. Imagine his thoughts on the way to work - worries about being late, anxiety about tube travel, maybe he was thinking about a girl, or feeling a bit homesick for Brazil, or just watching the sites and sounds as he travelled the tedious bus ride to the station.

He's late. He runs for the train, he hears some shouts and commotion behind him. He sees some men with guns. He trips and falls. The men pile on top of him and then there's nothing.

Yes, consider the situation the police officer is in: he's been given godlike power over life and death, and he wields it like an imbecile human.

Dom Brown

I'm as saddened as everyone about this young man being brutally murdered in cold blood. Having lived in a foreign country like him, I fully realise why he ran when confronted by several gun wielding men (who wouldn't). This person died in fear, and lets not forget all thsoe on the train that witnessed this murder.

What is sadder still is that the police will not issue a comprehensive apology, and have thus far only stated their 'regret'. We are even told more innocent people could yet die. If this carries on the polcie will soon be seen as the terrorists.

If this young man was suspected of being a terrorist, why did the police not move to arrest him on the bus that he took from tulse hill to stockwell? for 2 of the recent bombs have been on buses.

There are many questions which need answering. If they are not answered, the UK risks alienating itself from another country where its people are now very angry at what is being seen as gross incompetance and a lack of empathy from us

Stone

No one is talking about the racial issues that this incident has allowed to rise to the surface:

The innocent man who was shot was Brazillian. The police were supposed to be looking for men of "South Asian" decent. It’s really sad that the police have their "they all look alike" philosophy, doesn’t it?

And you wonder why minorities are scared of the police?

Yusuf Smith

The innocent man who was shot was Brazillian. The police were supposed to be looking for men of "South Asian" decent. It’s really sad that the police have their "they all look alike" philosophy, doesn’t it?

Not to mention that Stockwell is full of Portuguese-speaking people, including Brazilians. I've worked in some of the companies on the New Covent Garden Market and there are quite a few people of all skin colours from various Portuguese-speaking countries.

Look along South Lambeth Road and Wandsworth Road at all the Portuguese deli shops.

Ian

Note to Tony Martin: Next time you shoot a burglar say "I thought he was a suicide bomber" and you'll be alright

Matt Ashby

The innocent man who was shot was Brazillian. The police were supposed to be looking for men of "South Asian" decent. It’s really sad that the police have their "they all look alike" philosophy, doesn’t it?

The police are not looking for 'men of "South Asian"' or any other decent, because they are well aware that to do so damages their chances of stopping terrorist attacks and catching those who would carry them out. There are two reasons for this: the police know that terrorists can come from any ethnic group (one of the London bombers was of Jamaican heritage, and one of the men currently being sought is apparently Somali) and they know that "picking on" one or more minority ethnic groups causes tension between those groups and the police (which makes it harder to work with those groups against crime and terrorism). It is for these reasons that police officers are specifically taught not to rely on sex or ethnic group as an indicator of a person's terrorist intent, and also why a white female friend who I was talking to tonight who works on Whitehall was saying that she keeps getting stopped for security checks on the way to work.

The police have done more than any other organisation I know to address the problems of racism and now provide the best diversity training I've ever seen. They had a problem and have finally (after a long campaign to get them to do so) made strong attempts to deal with it.

Tom

This is of course a horrific tragedy. I don't feel qualified to say whether, based on the situation the police were facing, the shooting was justified or not. Obviously the police are going to be a bit on edge. It's entirely understandable why they'd shoot someone in a bulky coat running away from them and onto a train. That said, it's entirely understandable why someone would run away from men with guns (from my understanding, the police weren't in uniform). I think the most obvious policy change to be implemented is that police should be in uniform if they are going to shoot a terrorist suspect who is running away from them.

My question: why does it matter if he was shot once or five times? People seem to jump on the fact that he was shot multiple times. I don't see why that is relevant. The issue is if they thought he was a bomber. That was the horrific mistake.

Dave Hansell

One aspect of this specific incident still has me puzzled.

Leaving aside the five minute walk to the bus stop and the two/three? mile bus journey to the tube station, along with other contextual details like the fact that the police officers were in plain clothes (it's OK for this bloke to be mistaken for a suicide bomber on the grounds of his wearing clothing deemed not suitable for the warm weather but not, it seems, for this bloke to mistake a group of men with guns for terrorists/muggers).

So lets just concentrate on the perception of the police officers who have reputadly been trained or recieved training in Isreal or by the IDF.

There is a bloke you think may be a suicide bomber. You've followed him on two/three mile journey on foot and by bus to the tube station. He gets to the busy concourse of the tube station and you challenge him.

Now as far as you are concerned this bloke is stood there possibly with a bomb tied around his waist under a jacket (not a rucksack which has been used on all the other 8 attacks you know about). As far as you are concerned he may be a fanatical suicide bomber. You've challenged him, so as far as you are concerned he's stood there and he KNOWS he's faced by armed police. He's been rumbled.

Put yourself in the mindset of a fanatical suicide bomber in this situation. You are surrounded by armed police in the busy and crowded concourse of a tube station on your way to carry out what you believe is your mission.

What do you do?

A. Run for the tube and risk being shot before you can carry out your mission.?

B. Set off your bomb there and then to take as many people with you?

On the basis of the premise/assumption you are dealing with a fantical suicide bomber who wants to kill as many people as possible - including you and your colleagues, the logical course of action for the bloke you have challenged is option B.

It does does not make sense for someone of that mindset to take option A.

Indeed option A is illogical unless you are dealing with someone who thinks YOU are a terrorist or a mugger - in which case running away becomes logical.

Whatever training these police officers had it seems to be far inferior to that which I recieved even as basic training in the army over 30 years ago.

Andrew Milner

If you are Pakistani, or look like one and live in a run-down inner city in Britain, it's like being a Jew in Nazi Germany: Assaulted and insulted on a daily basis. If the right-wing thugs don't get you the police will.
Exaggeration, generalization? Read this post 7/7 letter from the BBC "Have your say" column:
"My Asian Muslim friend was beaten to a pulp in broad daylight in Bristol the day after the bombings, leaving him unconscious with broken limbs and a ruptured kidney. The police in Bristol have to date refused to even take a statement, telling his family "it's not the right time to be making complaints like this." So much for protecting all sections of the community."
Muslims are not Jews. They don’t keep a low profile and wait for current difficulties to blow over. They embrace death if it’s to avenge an insult to their religion. Forget a bomber mastermind to provide the organisational leadership. And who needs explosive, military or agricultural? Just leave a gas main open and wait for the next person to walk in with a lit cigarette. Britain is facing a threat of Biblical proportions, and it’s all of their own making. Another fine mess you got us into, Tony.