The family of a suspected gangster shot dead during an armed operation seven years ago accused police of tampering with evidence to make it seem that the dead man had been carrying a weapon, a public inquiry heard.
The policeman who fired the fatal shots, named only as E7, angrily denied any wrong-doing and rejected suggestions that he was “trigger-happy” after he killed two people and wounded two others during a police operation in the 1980s.
The officer, an experienced firearms officer and a 30-year police veteran at the time of the killing, gave evidence for the first time at the inquiry and explained how he shot Azelle Rodney, 24, six times as he sat inside a car in April 2005.
The officer was in one of four unmarked police cars following the VW Golf carrying Mr Rodney and two other men who were believed to be on their way to rip off a group of Colombian drug dealers in north London.
E7, who was responsible for covering colleagues as they leapt out of their cars, said that he believed that their lives were in danger. He opened fire with two deadly bursts in less than a second after his car pulled alongside Mr Rodney who was sitting in the back seat.
The officer said that he never saw a weapon but Mr Rodney’s body language suggested that he had picked up an automatic weapon and was about to fire at other police officers, the inquiry heard. Three guns were found in the car and the two other men later pleaded guilty to firearms offences.
The officer said it was “outrageous” and “insulting” to suggest that police had put a gun on the back seat after the shooting. Counsel for Mr Rodney’s family, Leslie Thomas, said: “We say that the gun that was found subsequently on the back seat of the car was put there, removed from one of the bags in the car. It was not next to Mr Rodney.”
“No sir, that’s absolutely not true,” said E7.
His evidence was interrupted by an outburst from Mr Rodney’s mother, Susan Alexander, who stormed out of the inquiry as the officer gave a detailed account of the hours leading up to the shooting. “How many lies are you going to tell?” she said as she left the inquiry room.
The accusation came at the end of a day of highly-charged evidence by E7, who broke off several times struggling with his emotions as he gave evidence.
The public and relatives other than Mrs Alexander were not allowed into the inquiry room or to see E7 and followed the evidence via a television link in a next-door room.
The inquiry heard that E7 was sitting in a car that hit the car carrying Mr Rodney as it pulled alongside and was just a few feet from him, the court heard.
E7 told the inquiry that he did not shout a warning because “I couldn’t have got the words out my mouth quick enough”. He said he feared from intelligence reports indicated that the gang could have a weapon such as the MAC-10 that could fire 18 rounds a second.
He said he continued firing two shots after a first burst of six shots because Mr Rodney remained upright in the back of the car and showed no sign of having been hit. He said it “wasn’t like Hollywood” and said adrenaline often meant gunshot victims did not even feel taking a bullet.
He said he believed Mr Rodney was armed because he quickly ducked down into the footwell as if he picked something up, although he accepted he never saw a weapon. “I’m still absolutely convinced to this day that he picked up a weapon,” said E7.
The inquiry heard that E7, who also trained other firearms officers, had shot and killed two men in the 1980s and injured two others. Inquests found that the two men were lawfully killed and the injured men were later found guilty at trial, documents lodged with the court showed. The inquiry did not reveal further details about the incident.
Referring to the shootings in the 1980s, Mr Thomas said: “Some might suggest you are a bit trigger happy, would you accept that?”
“Absolutely not,” said E7.
The inquiry also heard that he had been arrested in 2000 after a drunken dispute with bouncers at a Covent Garden nightclub and was led away in handcuffs when he refused to leave.
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