"the best post on the subject [of the Stockwell shooting] so far and I agree. A must read." - Tim Worstall, August 21, 2005

"Chris at Optimus In Omnis wrote a thoughtful post in July...his more recent post describes the edginess many Londoners feel" - BBC News Online, August 22, 2005

Thursday, August 18, 2005

The call of nature leads to the death of an innocent man

A soldier-cum-police officer has the most important decision any man - anyone, mortal or immortal - could possibly make: the distinction between life and death. With an armed band of policemen and women giving him support, waiting for his single command to shoot, he crouches behind a wall next to a block of flats. A man exits from a flat suspected of giving a punishment-free solace to men who wished to inflict death upon their fellow countrymen. The man has to make a decision.

Instead, he is busy making patterns on the wall with his own urine.

The real reason Jean Charles de Menezes, the 27-year old electrician from Brazil died was that the man given the responsibility of identifying him as he left his home was caught short. While concentrating on peeing, the officer claimed he could not get a positive (or, as it would have been, negative) identification. Therefore, it would be reasonable to assume, at least one of the many officers who were tracking de Menezes that morning would have to identify the man as one of the terror suspects.

Apparently not.

During the time in which de Menezes walked to a bus stop, boarded two buses in the space of a few minutes and then made his way to Stockwell tube station, not one of the undercover police officers shadowing him even thought of taking a look at his face to see if he was actually the man he was accused of being. Seemingly, the only sane officer on the Metropolitan police force (a man named only as Hotel 3) was bowled over by a wave of ineptitude and stubbornness that a dead terrorist was better than an alive terrorist. Hotel 3 asked to take de Menezes into custody. Quietly. Without bullets. His higher-ups refused, seemingly wanting this confrontation where they could bring down one of the supposed lynchpins of the attempted attacks on the capital a day earlier. With this public arrest, people would be reassured: we would be winning this war on terrorists. We would, as the leaders of our police force and our nation, along with various truly good-meaning souls who have become entwined with deceitful characters, not be afraid.

Tell me why, then, I was looking twice at everyone who boarded buses I was on in the weeks after 7/7? Why, when I got on seven planes in sixteen days, I was praying that we would not be blown out of the sky or flown into the ground? Why have I become so xenophobic that I carefully watched a young woman of Arab descent who was so cold onboard our plane to Gatwick that she insisted on covering her whole body with a wooly blanket, worrying that she would never return from her hiding place and her rucksack, stowed above her head, would signal the end for all aboard that flight?

I am afraid. I am really, very afraid and these turn of events have made me into a worse person. I get a twinge of guilt every time I look for a second longer at someone who is acting suspiciously, not because I think it is unnecessary but because with each glance I sink lower and lower into moral depravity.

Hotel 3, shot down on his request, then had to fall back and allow de Menezes on the tube. It is at this point that the lies the British public have been spun over the past three weeks really start to snowball.

Jean Charles de Menezes vaulted the ticket barrier, much like Yassin Hassan Omar was seen doing on CCTV one day earlier.

False. Just like any other law-abiding citizen, he paid for his last ride. Indeed, showing this "we are not afraid" attitude that those living in Britain are said to have in abundance, he was taking public transport just a day after the attempted bombings.

Jean Charles de Menezes had clothing that could have resembled a bomb belt, or was wearing a backpack.

Absolutely false, as the pictures of his dead body on the floor of the train, stained red with blood, shows.

Yes, he ran for the train, like any good commuter worth his salt does. The fact of whether de Menezes did these things or not is not even the problem - the unarmed, undercover officers following him were not seriously alarmed at this point, instead three of them taking their places on the train, including the ever-present Hotel 3. It should be pointed out at this stage that the police force still had absolutely no idea of whether this man they were following was a terrorist or an electrician. The four armed police officers from SO19 who had trailed de Menezes "as a precaution," according to PC Cressida Dick, made their way to the platform of Stockwell station. Hotel 3 pointed out de Menezes (in what would be the single mistake he made) before trying to detain the Brazilian, who had left his seat in the confusion of four armed police officers storming the train he was on.

Hotel 3 managed to pin de Menezes down on his seat, to the point that he could not move. This was seemingly not enough for some trigger-happy SO19 officers, who decided to unload eight bullets into his head and chest, and three into the seat behind him, from what one eyewitness referenced in the leaked report as "twelve inches." Hotel 3 narrowly dodged the hail of bullets, which left de Menezes stone cold dead.

Just three weeks ago, I was a staunch supporter of the Metropolitan Police and their shoot to kill policy, under the pretence that the suspect had been acting suspiciously, was wearing what looked like a bomb belt and had evaded police officers. I still am a supporter of the policy, as long as the person in question actually does any of those three things. If, as happened here, none of those suspicions were raised, and if, as happened here, any kind of identification was forgone, I am totally against it.

It certainly does not help to be lied to in the aftermath, that is for sure.

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