The shooting of an unarmed man by a police officer was “almost inevitable” because of the tactics deployed by the Scotland Yard team, a public inquiry has been told.
Azelle Rodney, 24, was killed after being shot six times at point blank range by an elite firearms officer - only seconds after his car was rammed by three unmarked police cars in April 2005.
Two expert police witnesses, with 45 years of experience in firearms operations between them, today criticised several crucial parts of the police operation in their evidence to the public inquiry into Mr Rodney’s death.
Mr Rodney was the rear passenger of a VW Golf when he was shot by an officer known as E7 in Edgware, north London – seconds after the police pulled up beside him. Mr Rodney was part of a group under surveillance for a suspected drug heist, and officers wrongly believed that there were semi-automatic weapons in the front of the car.
Andrew Mawhinney and Philip Gracey from Northern Ireland said they would never have sanctioned the three-car “hard stop” which put E7 besides Mr Rodney because of the inevitable risks involved. That tactic has not been used in Northern Ireland since the death of a man in 2003; no-one has been shot during a similar pre-planned car interception since two-vehicle stops were introduced.
Mr Gracey said: “If I had been offered a three car stop in this format I would not have accepted it as the Gold commander…. I would have been putting people into a set of circumstances that almost inevitably meant someone was going to get shot…I just would not have put my officers in that position. I have dealt with similar issues [cases] in the past”
He added: “My main aim would have been to catch a group of hardened criminals, but the protection of life is paramount.”
The two former senior officers also told the court that it would have been far safer for everyone to apprehend the men much earlier - as soon as there was evidence of a weapon in the VW when it was parked.
The experts also criticised the police for failing to identify themselves as police to the three suspects in the VW through the use blue lights or sirens, but accepted that it was for individual officers to judge whether remaining covert was justifiable.
Both experts agreed that it was “exceptional” that E7 has shot five people during his policing career.
Anne Studd QC, representing the Met, said the circumstances and resources available in Northern Ireland were not directly comparable to London.
Earlier Martin Rush, the Chief Inspector of the firearms command in 2005, said he stood by the decision to employ three cars which placed E7 within inches of Mr Rodney.
The inquiry continues.