Man dies after police shooting in Brighton

A suspected criminal wanted in connection with a series of armed robberies was shot dead by police today.

Officers opened fire on the unnamed man, believed to be in his 40s, in Brighton, East Sussex, just after 1pm.

What appeared to be a black handgun not used by police was found by his body.

It was being examined to find out whether it is real or fake and whether it had been fired.

Investigators said armed officers were deployed as part of a pre-planned operation connected to a series of armed robberies in Brighton and mid-Sussex over the past couple of months.

One witness reported hearing two gunshots ring out before police tried to revive the dying man. He was pronounced dead a short time later at the Royal Sussex County Hospital.

Police said in a statement: "Sussex Police have confirmed that a man shot by armed officers in Brighton has died in hospital.

"The man was shot at 1.03pm on Thursday in Rock Place by officers on a pre-planned operation to locate a man wanted in connection with a number of crimes in Sussex in recent months."

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) sent investigators to the scene to take initial accounts from officers involved.

Superintendent Steve Whitton, of Sussex Police, said: "We attended the address in order to locate a man who was wanted in connection with these robberies."

He added: "He has not been identified yet but when he has, full support will be offered to his family and those that have been affected by this incident."

Police activity was centred about halfway down the street, where a gazebo had been erected to protect the crime scene from the rain.

IPCC commissioner Mike Franklin said: "IPCC investigators are currently in Sussex carrying out inquiries to establish exactly what happened in this case.

"This will involve taking initial accounts from those officers involved to establish which officer or officers fired and why, as well as identifying evidence on police systems such as incident logs and radio transmissions.

"We will be working to identify independent witnesses who saw any part of today's incident as it unfolded, as well as to gather CCTV in the area which may have captured events.

"Our investigators will also look at the pre-planning of the operation itself."

Students at the Brighton Institute of Modern Music, just a few doors down from the scene, were ordered to stay inside by police.

Student Frankie Sparrowhawk, 18, said he walked outside just as the man was shot.

He said: "I heard two gunshots and saw someone lying on the floor. There were five or six police officers there at that point.

"I was too far away to see if he was moving but it looked like one of them was trying to resuscitate him.

"An ambulance arrived within about two seconds."

Local resident Janet Hood, 67, said she was not able to get to her ground-floor flat in the street.

She said: "I wasn't in, luckily.

"I'm quite frightened and a bit shaken-up to be honest.

"I only know the neighbours to say hello to but it's usually a very quiet street, we don't usually have any trouble here."

An area around the scene in Kemp Town was cordoned off and local traffic diversions were in place.

Today's incident is the latest in a series of fatal shootings by armed officers in Sussex.

An inquest jury ruled last November that police acted lawfully when they shot gun enthusiast Mervyn Tussler, 64, dead in Fernhurst, near Midhurst, West Sussex, on May 8 2009.

Mr Tussler was in despair that his ailing wife Winifred would have to go into a nursing home because she could not be looked after at home.

He pointed a Colt 45 antique handgun at a manager at his sheltered accommodation when she went to check on him.

During a three-hour stand-off, police tried to start negotiations with him but he did not respond.

A police dog sent into the property did not indicate that anyone was inside and officers entered to find Mr Tussler motionless on his bed.

When police pulled away his duvet, Mr Tussler opened fire several times with his "cowboy-style" gun, causing a bullet to penetrate an officer's protective vest.

Police threw a stun grenade into the room but it failed to subdue him. Officers returned fire and he died from a single bullet wound to his abdomen.

The IPCC said its inquiries found no evidence of criminal or misconduct issues for Sussex Police officers or staff. No disciplinary action was considered.

In an earlier incident, on January 15 1998, James Ashley, 39, was shot dead while naked and unarmed during a raid at his home in Western Road, St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex.

The police officer who fired the fatal shot, Pc Chris Sherwood, was tried for murder but was acquitted in May 2001.

He claimed that he had mistakenly believed Mr Ashley was pointing a gun at him and was about to shoot him.

The case against him was dropped after Mrs Justice Rafferty ruled that the prosecution had failed to show he had not acted in self-defence in shooting Mr Ashley.

Another officer, Pc Robert Shoesmith, was cleared of misconduct after the case against him at the Old Bailey was also dropped.

Three other officers - Superintendent Christopher Burton, Acting Chief Inspector Kevin French and Detective Inspector Christopher Siggs, who went on trial for negligence in office at Wolverhampton Crown Court - were also cleared after their lawyers argued that "criminal intent" could not be proved in the planning and execution of the raid.

A further seven officers in Sussex Police faced disciplinary action for their roles in the incident.

The Ashley family were then left further distressed when in May 2004, five of the police officers involved attempted to claim £50,000 in damages each.

The family were awarded undisclosed damages in 2009 following an admission by the force of a series of failures at different levels before, during and after the raid.

Traffic was severely disrupted in central Brighton tonight, with police urging motorists to avoid the area.

Anybody who witnessed today's shooting is asked to contact the IPCC on 0800 096 9075 or email

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