Menezes police in new fatal shooting

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The Independent Online

The death of Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes was back in the spotlight today as it emerged that officers involved in the incident had taken part in another police operation in which a man was shot dead.

The officers were part of Scotland Yard's specialist CO19 firearms unit which supported Flying Squad detectives as they attempted to stop a suspected armed robbery at the Nationwide building society in New Romney, Kent, on Tuesday.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is investigating after a man, who has not been named, was shot during the operation and later died in hospital.

The Metropolitan Police confirmed last night that the team sent to Kent had included officers who were involved in the shooting of Mr de Menezes at Stockwell Tube station in south London on July 22 last year.

But Scotland Yard would not comment on claims that one of the firearms officers who opened fire on Mr de Menezes shot the 42-year-old man during the suspected bank robbery in Kent.

The Metropolitan Police said in a statement last night: "The Specialist Firearms team (CO19) involved in the Flying Squad operation in Kent did include officers from the same team who were involved in the Stockwell shooting in July last year.

"The Met has a small cadre of specialist highly-trained firearms officers who last year were deployed to 2,529 incidents and were involved in 938 pre-planned operations.

"They perform an extremely difficult but vital function responding to armed threats against the public and their unarmed colleagues and it is extremely rare for officers to fire their guns.

"As is proper the IPCC is conducting an independent investigation into the shooting. Their enquiries are ongoing but they have confirmed that a firearm was recovered at the scene.

"It is deeply regrettable when anyone dies as a result of police action."

Mr de Menezes, 27, was shot seven times in the head by police after being mistaken for a suicide bomber.

In July two police firearms officers involved in his fatal shooting were cleared to return to full operational duties with the CO19 firearms unit.

In accordance with protocol, both had immediately been suspended from operational duties in the wake of the incident.

But Metropolitan Police Deputy Commissioner Paul Stephenson took the decision to lift the restrictions on the two officers after crown prosecutors decided neither should face charges over the innocent Brazilian's death.

At the time Mr de Menezes family reacted angrily to the move and were said to be "very, very upset" and "in pieces" at the prospect of the officers resuming work.

Earlier this month they launched a High Court challenge over the decision not to prosecute individual officers.

The IPCC will use its own investigators to carry out the inquiry into the Kent shooting, which will be led by Nicola Williams.

Scotland Yard confirmed that one of the police officers involved in the operation had already been relieved of firearms duties. This is routine in such cases.

Three men were also arrested as part of the operation and they are currently being questioned by detectives.

The Met described the operation as "pro-active" and said it was designed to "prevent and apprehend" those believed to be involved in an attempted armed robbery of the building society.

However, the force declined to give further details of what happened or comment on the number of shots that were fired during the operation, except to say that it was not terrorist related.

It is unclear if any money was taken from the building society.

In a statement, Scotland Yard said the shot man was injured at about 8pm and taken by ambulance to William Harvey Hospital in Ashford, Kent, where he died.

No police officers were injured in the incident, the statement added.

Police recovered a firearm from the scene of the suspected robbery bid which was due to be examined forensically.

An IPCC spokeswoman said: "The man was shot by armed officers from CO19, the specialist firearms unit of the Metropolitan Police Service, at about 8pm yesterday.

"Detectives from the Flying Squad, with support from CO19, had been carrying out a pre-planned operation to detect an armed robbery at a building society in New Romney, Kent.

"During the course of events, a police firearm was discharged, wounding the man. He was taken by ambulance to William Harvey Hospital where he later died. A firearm was recovered at the scene and has been submitted for forensic analysis."

Meanwhile officers from Scotland Yard's Directorate of Professional Standards have also been informed.

A spokesman for Nationwide said the company had no comment to make on the shooting. However, it is not thought any of its staff were caught up in the incident as the operation took place outside working hours.

London's Evening Standard claimed undercover police had staked out the building society after a tip-off that an armed gang was planning a raid.

As the four men arrived at the premises, they were challenged by police, the newspaper reported.

Police have refused to go into detail about how and why the shooting occurred or whether they were fired upon.

The three arrested men were being held at police stations in Kent on suspicion of robbery, Kent Police said.