Constable Patrick Hodgson, 49, was found not guilty at the Old Bailey of both the murder and manslaughter of David Ewin, 38, in a busy London street. He had denied both murder and manslaughter of Mr Ewin who was shot in Barnes, south-west London in February 1995.
The officer was part of the crew of an armed response vehicle that had spotted the stolen Toyota sports car parked outside a shop.
Mr Ewin had shunted the stolen car back and forwards in an attempt to escape and had nearly crushed PC Hodgson in the process, the court heard. PC Hodgson, who has 20 years' service in the Metropolitan Police force, said the last thing he had wanted to do was shoot, but he believed his life and those of bystanders were in danger.
He fired his 9mm Glock handgun twice at Mr Ewin, who died later in hospital from major internal injuries.
"I had to steady myself holding the gun. My legs were getting a bit weak. I just managed to control shaking," the constable had told the jury.
John Bevan QC, for the prosecution, alleged that Mr Hodgson had other options and did not need to fire.
Mr Ewin who was high on drugs and drink at the time of the incident and was out on licence from a five-year term for armed robbery. He was a west London villain, known to the police for 20 years. His previous convictions included assaults, and theft of motor vehicles.
But Mr Hodgson knew nothing of this when he approached him - he believed he was a car thief.
It is the third time Mr Hodgson has faced trial after juries failed to return a verdict. Instructions to all armed police officers state that a gun may be fired only as a last resort.
An oral warning, designed to make the target give up, must be given when practicable. The usual words are: "Stop, armed police." They are trained to shoot at the torso.
Mr Ewin's mother, Jean, said yesterday: "People steal cars all the time. There was no need to shoot."
PC Hodgson's future is now being considered by the Metropolitan Police and the Police Complaints Authority.
-- Jason Bennetto
Crime CorrespondentReuse content