Saturday, July 23, 2005

Innocent man executed

This man was killed by Metropolitan police yesterday in the apparent belief that he was a suicide bomber.

The following is from Wickipedia:

"The son of a bricklayer, Menezes grew up on a farm in Gonzaga in the state of Minas Gerais inland from Rio de Janeiro. After discovering an early aptitude for electronics, he left the farm at age 14 to live with his uncle in São Paulo in order to further his education. At 19 he received a professional diploma from Escola Estadual (State School) São Sebastião. He had originally wanted to go to the United States but could not obtain a work visa.

He then entered the UK on a tourist visa in 2002, and subsequently applied for and obtained a student visa for the period to June 2003. According to a statement by the British Home Office, he did not apply for an extension, and was therefore living illegally in the UK after that time. Within 4 months of arriving in the UK he had a good grasp of the English language, and spent his time earning money to send back to his family in Brazil. Menezes had hoped to eventually return to Minas Gerais to start a cattle ranch with the money he had saved.

He was shot and killed by London police who mistakenly believed him to be a suicide bomber on 22 July 2005. On 27 July 2005, Menezes' body was flown to Brazil for burial. His funeral took place in Gonzaga, Brazil, on July 29.[1] A memorial service presided over by Cormac Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor was held in Westminster Cathedral, London, at the same time."

"Disputed facts and events
Virtually all of the facts and events regarding the Menezes shooting were initially disputed by various parties. Contradictory witness accounts, off the record statements from police, and press speculation added to the confusion. As a result, initial press reports on the story presented several different views on the chain of events and facts, which differed from the version later revealed by the IPCC investigation.

With regards to his dress on the day of the shooting The Observer reported that he was dressed in "baseball cap, blue fleece and baggy trousers." Mark Whitby, a witness to the shooting, told Reuters that he observed Menezes wearing a large winter coat, which "looked out of place". Vivien Figueiredo, a cousin of Menezes, claimed that she had been told by police that Menezes was wearing a denim jacket on the day of the shooting. Anthony Larkin, another eyewitness, told the BBC that Menezes appeared to be wearing a "bomb belt with wires coming out." No device resembling a bomb belt was reported as found. Menezes was also not carrying a tool bag, since he had left it with his work colleague the previous evening.

According to the report on leaked IPCC documents, Menezes was wearing a pair of jeans and a light denim jacket. These facts were confirmed by a photo of his body on the floor of the carriage after the shooting.

Police challenge
Police intially claimed that they challenged Menezes and ordered him to stop outside Stockwell station. Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair said in a press conference that a warning was issued prior to the shooting. Lee Ruston, an eyewitness who was waiting on the platform, said the police made no efforts to identify themselves. The Times reported "senior police sources" as saying that police policy would not require a warning to be given to a suspected suicide bomber before lethal action was taken. [16]

The leaked IPCC documents indicated that Menezes was seated on the train carriage when the SO19 armed unit arrived. A shout of 'police' may have been made, but the suspect never really had an opportunity to respond to it in any way before he was shot. The leaked documents also indicated that he was restrained by an unarmed officer prior to being shot.

Ticket barrier
Eyewitnesses claim that up to twenty police officers in plainclothes pursued Menezes into Stockwell station, that he jumped over the ticket barrier, ran down an escalator and tried to jump onto a train.[17] According to Menezes' family, Menezes did not actually jump over the ticket barrier and may have used a standard London Travel Card to pass the turnstile [18].

Police initially refused to release CCTV footage while the IPCC investigation was ongoing, even to the family. It has been suggested that the man reported by eyewitnesses as jumping over the turnstile may actually have been one of the plainclothes officers in pursuit.[19]

According to the leaked IPCC documents, Menezes passed through the barrier normally using his pre-paid oyster card.

Several reasons were initially posited by media sources and family members for why Menezes may have run from police, as indicated by initial reports. A few weeks prior, he had been attacked by a gang and may have relived the situation upon seeing plainclothes officers chasing him. Several sources have speculated that irregularities about his immigration status may have given him reason to be wary of the police[20]. According to some reports, Menezes' student visa had expired, suggesting that he was working illegally, thus fearful of being deported by authorities[21]. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that a work colleague believed that Menezes ran simply because he was late for his job[22].

It was later indicated by the leaked IPCC documents that Menezes ran across the platform apparently to get a seat on the train, but did not know at the time that he was being watched or pursued.

It was initially stated by police that Menezes was shot five times in the head. Mark Whitby, a passenger on the train Menezes had run onto, said: "one of [the police officers] was carrying a black handgun—it looked like an automatic—He half tripped… they pushed him to the floor, bundled on top of him and unloaded five shots into him." Another passenger, Dan Copeland, said: "an officer jumped on the door to my left and screamed, 'Everybody out!' People just froze in their seats cowering for a few seconds and then leapt up. As I turned out the door onto the platform, I heard four dull bangs."[23] Menezes' cousin Alex Pereira, who lived with him, asserted that Menezes had been shot from behind: "I pushed my way into the morgue. They wouldn't let me see him. His mouth was twisted by the wounds and it looked like he had been shot from the back of the neck." Later reports confirmed that Jean Charles de Menezes was shot a total of eight times: seven times in the head and once in the shoulder. [24]

The leaked IPCC documents also indicated that three shots missed, and the spent cartridges were found in the carriage.

Immigration status
According to initial reports from UK government sources Menezes was living in the country illegally on an expired visa at the time he was killed. Menezes' family believed that his visa had been renewed for an additional five years and that he was working in the country legally [25]. On 28 July, the Home Office issued a statement saying that Menezes had arrived in the UK on 13 March 2002 using a six month tourist visa, and had later applied to remain as a student. That application was granted and allowed him to remain until 30 June 2003. This had not been renewed according to their records. [26]

Involvement of special forces
Several commentators suggested that special forces may have been involved in the shooting. Professor Michael Clarke, professor of defence studies at King's College London, went as far as to say that unless there had been a major change in policy it was likely that it was not the police who had carried out the shooting, but special forces:

"To have bullets pumped into him like this suggests quite a lot about him and what the authorities, whoever they are, assumed about him. The fact that he was shot in this way strongly suggests that it was someone the authorities knew and suspected he was carrying explosives on him. […] You don't shoot somebody five times if you think you might have made a mistake and may be able to arrest him. […] Even Special Branch and SO19 are not trained to do this sort of thing. It's plausible that they were special forces or elements of special forces." [27]
Later, on 4 August 2005, The Guardian reported that the newly-created Special Reconnaissance Regiment (SRR), a special forces unit specialising in covert surveillance, were involved in the operation that led to the shooting. The anonymous Whitehall sources who provided the story stressed that the SRR were involved only in intelligence-gathering, and that Menezes was shot by armed police not by members of the SRR or other soldiers. Defence sources would not comment on speculation that SRR soldiers were among the plain-clothes officers who followed Menezes on to the No. 2 bus[28].

"Documents from the independent agency investigation of the shooting later claimed that mistakes in police surveillance procedure led to a failure to properly identify Menezes early on, leading to rushed assumptions and actions later at Stockwell Tube station. The Metropolitan Police and the IPCC refused comment on the allegations while the IPCC investigation was still ongoing, though an anonymous 'senior police source' told the Guardian that the leak was accurate. [4]

The surveillance officer on duty at Scotia Road compared Menezes to the CCTV photographs of the bombing suspects from the previous day, and felt "it would be worth someone else having a look", but "was in the process of relieving [him]self", and was thus unable to immediately turn on a video camera to transmit images to "Gold Command", the Metropolitan Police operational headquarters. On the basis of this officer's suspicion, Gold Command authorized officers to continue pursuit and surveillance.

The street entrance to Stockwell tube station is shown in this photo.The officers followed Menezes for 5 minutes as he walked to the Tulse Hill bus-stop for the Number 2 bus line. As he boarded the bus, several plainclothes policeman boarded, continuing the pursuit. After 10-25 minutes, the bus arrived at Stockwell Tube station, 3.3km (2 miles) away.

At some point during this journey, the pursuing officers contacted Gold Command, and reported that Menezes potentially matched the description of two of the previous day's suspects, including Osman Hussain. Based on this information, Gold Command authorized "code red" tactics, and ordered the surveillance officers to prevent Menezes from boarding a train. Gold Command also transferred control of the operation to SO19, which dispatched firearms officers to Stockwell Tube Station.

At some point Menezes phoned a colleague, Gesio de Avila, saying he would be late due to the disruption of public transport caused by the previous day's attempted bombings.

Menezes entered the Tube station at about 10:00 a.m., stopping to pick up a free Metro newspaper. He used his "Oyster card" to pay the fare and pass the ticketing turnstile, and descended the escalator slowly. He then ran across the platform to board the newly-arrived train. Menezes boarded the train and found one of the first available seats.

Three surveillance officers followed Menezes onto the train. One of the officers identified the squadron of firearms officers on the platform and alerted them to the suspect's location. The firearms officers boarded the train and challenged the suspect. Menezes stood, at which point the surveillance officer grabbed him, pinning his arms against his torso, and pushed him back into the seat. The armed police officers, who had boarded the train, restrained the surveillance officer and shot Menezes. Two officers fired a total of eleven shots. Menezes was shot seven times in the head and once in the shoulder at close range, and died at the scene.

Immediately after the shooting, the Metropolitan Police claimed that the shooting was "directly linked" to the investigation of the attempted bombings the previous day. It was revealed that police policy toward suspected suicide bombers had been revised, instructing officers to fire directly toward the head, as British authorities claim that shooting at the chest could detonate a concealed bomb.[5]

The officers involved in the shooting (from Scotland Yard’s SO19 firearms branch) were debriefed and drugs and alcohol tests were taken as a standard procedure. The officers were taken off duty pending an investigation into the shooting."

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