London’s police commissioner expressed regret today for the slaying of a Brazilian electrician by officers who mistook him for a suspect in the recent terror bombings, but he defended a police shoot-to-kill policy as “the only way” to stop would-be suicide bombers.
The man shot Friday at the Stockwell subway station was identified as Jean Charles de Menezes, 27. Witnesses said he was wearing a heavy, padded coat when plainclothes police chased him into a subway car, pinned him to the ground and shot him five times in the head and torso in front of horrified passengers.
Blair initially said Menezes was “directly linked” to the investigation of Thursday’s attacks, but police then said Saturday he had no connection to the bomb attempts.
“This is a tragedy,” Blair said today of the shooting. “The Metropolitan Police accepts full responsibility for this. To the family I can only express my deep regrets.”
Here is a lengthy look at the slain man and his grief-stricken family: Man shot by police was in wrong place at wrong time.
From that sad tale I would like to highlight the following:
Within 20 minutes, the Brazilian whose interest in all things electrical was sparked at the age of eight by dismantling a broken transistor radio and making it work again, would be dead.
Witnesses described how he vaulted the ticket barriers at Stockwell, then started running down the escalators before bursting into a carriage of a stationary northbound Northern Line train looking “petrified”.
So, to wrong place and wrong time, let’s add wrong attire and wrong behavior. As a rule of thumb, I’d like to suggest not looking and acting like a threat in public places. At least not while Islamists are doing the same with the intent of killing.
Tragic? Yes. A mistake. Certainly not. As I blogged my reaction to the initial reports, I wrote essentially the same, though I would like to withdraw a little now that more is known.
Justified? Check the circumstances, check the attire, check the weather. Then ask the Israelis if they have any experience with unusual attire and things going kaboom. Justified? Oh hell yes. Unfortunate? Yes, as well.
Iâ€™d much rather have this piece of trash in custody spilling his guts than in the Tube spilling his blood. Still, Iâ€™ll settle for the blood.
The last two sentences were incorrect in this specific case. The rest stands.
At least for the time being, this unfortunate incident will not change the Brits’ shoot-to-kill tactics.
British police admitted today that a Brazilian electrician they shot dead in a crowded London Underground train had nothing to do with the terror bombings, but they will stick to a policy of shooting suspected suicide bombers in the head.
Londonâ€™s police chief Ian Blair conveyed the forceâ€™s “deep regrets” to the family of the dead man which has made angry protests, but he urged people to understand the context of the killing.
He said police first had to deal with the danger of stopping suicide bombers.
Blair also said the Brazilian was pursued because he had emerged from a block of apartments which police were watching as they hunted men who made a failed attempt to bomb subway trains and a bus last Thursday, he said.
“It was not just a random event… It was firmly linked to the ongoing operation,” said Blair.
Blair confirmed Press reports that British police were pursuing a “shoot-to-kill-in- order-to-protect policy” and could not guarantee that a similar mistake would not happen again.
“Thereâ€™s no point in shooting at somebodyâ€™s chest because thatâ€™s where the bomb is likely to be,” Blair said. “Thereâ€™s no point in shooting anywhere else because if they fall down they detonate it.
“It is drawn on the experience from other countries, including Sri Lanka.”
Quite right. War is ugly and mistakes happen but it must be realized that this is not a knee-jerk response. Rather, it is a reasonable course forced upon us by the tactics of our enemy.