LONDON – Just about the last defense of the police who killed Brazilian electrician Jean Charles de Menezes in London July 21 was that they had seen him running. New evidence suggests he was not running, but sitting on the train when he was grabbed and shot.
The new evidence blows the last lie produced by the police to cover the killing. So far, the excuse for the police had been that a man who could have been mistaken for an Asian had jumped the ticket barrier and run. On a tense day when attempts were reported of new bombings in London, the police action was passed off as excusable.
New video evidence gathered by the ITV news program shows that Charles did not jump the barrier; he passed normally through them with his ticket, and had sat down in the train when the police pounced on him.
He was shot eight times, seven shots going into his head and one into his shoulder.
The new evidence shows also that he was wearing a light denim jacket, and not a padded jacket as the police had claimed earlier. The police had said earlier that a heavy padded jacket on a hot summer day was suspicious because it might have suggested he was carrying explosives as he ran.
That statement, now shown to be false, followed a string of other police falsehoods to cover up the killing. First, the police said he was being shadowed as he left his block of flats to take a bus to the station. They said he was then followed to the train and shot when he ran. The police did not explain why they did not intercept him earlier.
The police then claimed that he had been "directly connected" to inquiries over the attempts to plant bombs on trains a day earlier. The police later admitted that this was not correct.
Then came the allegation that he was an illegal immigrant and that he therefore ran when he saw the police. It was quickly established that Charles was not an illegal immigrant. The police significantly offered no explanation why he ran, or even whether it was the case that he was challenged by the police and was running from the police.
Metropolitan police commissioner Sir Ian Blair had said after the killing: "Whatever else they were doing, they clearly thought they were faced with a suicide bomber and they were running toward him. Had that person been a suicide bomber and had the officers not fired and 25 yards up the track the bomb had exploded, the officers would be in a worse situation than they are now."
He announced and later defended a "shoot to kill" policy, and said that more people could be killed. He expressed "regret" over the death. But his predecessor expressed sympathy for the officer who killed Charles, not for Charles or his family. "My heart goes out to the officer who killed the man in Stockwell Tube Station," Lord John Stevens wrote in a newspaper.
Ian Blair said lethal force was the only option available to his officers. But the police themselves compromised that defense when they used no more than a stun gun to arrest Yasin Hassan Omar, one of the July 21 suspects.
The killing is being investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission. But it is not certain whether the inquiry will rope in Ian Blair as well.
The police complaints commission is investigating evidence offered by some witnesses that the police mistakenly pursued Charles after a lapse in surveillance because the officer concerned was "relieving himself." The commission is looking into the question why the intelligence on the occupants of the flats where Charles lived failed to identify him as innocent. It will also seek to establish why he was allowed to board a bus if he was suspected, even if wrongly so.
The police declined to comment on the new evidence. "The police complaints commission is investigating, so it is inappropriate for us to speak," a spokeswoman told IPS.