Scotland Yard has backed a legal fight by a decorated marksman who faces possible criminal charges for the unlawful shooting of suspected gangster in a botched police operation.
Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, said that it would support the firearms officer, known only as E7, as he seeks to overturn a public inquiry’s findings that criticised him for shooting Azelle Rodney in 2005.
Mr Rodney was killed after his car was tracked to a planned meeting with a group of Colombian drug dealers who the 24-year-old and two accomplices planned to rob at gunpoint.
An inquiry heard that E7 fired two rapid bursts in little more than two seconds without getting out of his car as it pulled alongside the suspects’ vehicle when it slowed at a roundabout.
E7 announced earlier this month that he planned to challenge the ruling by Sir Christopher Holland that his use of force was “irrational” and not legally justified. The report criticised police planning and tactics before E7, who has since retired, fired eight bullets at Mr Rodney outside a busy pub in north London.
Sir Bernard said that it was supporting the officer but said that it was not for the force to say whether the report’s conclusion was wrong. “We think this needs to be tested by a judicial review,” said Sir Bernard.
The finding by the retired judge cleared the way for potential criminal charges against the officer.
Sir Christopher found that E7 had changed his story over the shooting and disputed his claim that Mr Rodney, a backseat passenger, had bent down to pick up a gun in the split second before he opened fire. It was the first time that a public inquiry had found that an armed officer has used excessive force in shooting a civilian.
When his report was released, the Metropolitan police declined to apologise to the family of Mr Rodney – citing possible legal action against E7 – but said that it “deeply regretted” his death.
Sir Bernard told reporters today that the force’s backing for E7 was unrelated to the upcoming inquest into the fatal shooting of Mark Duggan by police, an event which sparked the 2011 August riots across the country.
Senior officers expressed concern at the impact it would have on firearms teams who were thrust into the most dangerous situations, but Sir Bernard said there had been no impact on volunteers coming forward to perform the sensitive role.