Saturday, October 25, 2008

Police marksman: 'I will have to live with this for the rest of my life. I am sorry'.

One of the policemen who shot Jean Charles de Menezes at Stockwell Tube station, choked whilst in court yesterday as he, for the first time, gave evidence of what happened on the day that de Menezes was shot.

The officer from Scotland Yard's CO19 firearms unit, identified as C12, described how he shot Mr de Menezes at point-blank range when the innocent Brazilian got up and walked towards him even after he shouted "armed police" and pointed his gun at him.

He said at that stage he believed he was "going to detonate" and he had to act to prevent the bomb going off. Mr de Menezes was shot seven times in the head after being mistaken for failed suicide bomber Hussain Osman.

Giving evidence in public for the first time at the inquest into the death of Mr de Menezes, C12 said he came face to face with him inside a cramped Tube train at Stockwell Underground station in south London on July 22 2005.

He said he recalled a scrum-like "ruck" as he pointed a gun towards Mr de Menezes's head, while a surveillance officer, identified as Ivor, pinned down the Brazilian .

"I brought the handgun up from my leg and pointed it up to shoulder level," he said. "He [Ivor] immediately grappled him into his seat. It just reconfirmed to me that I had to use force as soon as possible. If there was any alternative, you must believe me, I would have taken it but I did not have any alternative.

"I did not believe I had an alternative and if I did not act, members of the public would be killed. My colleagues would be killed and I would be killed. I had a duty to protect the public."

My problem with the whole de Menezes incident is that he was ever allowed to enter the tube station at all and that he was even allowed to board a London bus.

The Israelis have long shown us how to approach suspected suicide bombers. De Menezes should have been stopped - with guns trained on him - as he left his apartment building, far away from the public, and asked - with officers at a safe distance away - to remove his shirt.

That way the whole disaster could have been avoided. Because of the abject failure of the police to have an armed unit on the scene as de Menezes left for work the rest of this sorry tale played out like an unavoidable Shakespearean tragedy.

I have great sympathy for the police officer who thought he was saving innocent lives even as he took one. He will forever have to live with the consequences of what happened that dreadful day.
C12 described his feelings when he learnt the next day that the man he shot was not Osman. He said he felt "a sense of disbelief and of shock, sadness, confusion". "Everything I have ever trained for – for threat assessment, seeing threats, perceiving threats and acting on threats – proved wrong.

"And I am responsible for the death of an innocent man. That is something I have to live with for the rest of my life."
However, the responsibility for what took place actually lies much further up the food chain. And the scandal is that no-one will ever be punished for what was the clearly avoidable death of an innocent.

Cick title for full article.

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