Two arrested over city shooting

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The Independent Online

A police spokeswoman said it was "too early to tell" whether it was directly connected to this weekend's disturbances in the Lozells area of the city.

She said the incident had been voluntarily referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission after firearms officers were called to the area.

The spokeswoman said there had been "sporadic incidents" of disorder throughout the night, involving small groups of youths in the Lozells area, but these were of a "considerably lower scale" than Saturday night's clashes.

The latest shooting is about a mile from the Lozells area.

She said: "It is too early to say whether this incident is directly connected to the bigger picture.

"Given its proximity to the other events, we cannot rule it out."

Firearms officers were called to Melbourne Avenue in Newtown at about 12.40am today in connection with sightings of a firearm.

The spokeswoman said: "It would appear that at some point while police were searching the area, an 18-year-old suffered a gunshot wound and was taken to hospital where he has since died.

"Two men have been arrested in connection with this.

"West Midlands Police has voluntarily referred the matter to the Independent Police Complaints Commission as a matter of course."

Fears of a second night of violence were ignited earlier when a gang of up to 100 Asian youths charged down Lozells Road in the Lozells area in a display of what one protester said was an act to "reclaim our streets".

The sudden escalation, at about 10.30pm, proved that the already tense atmosphere around the area was still bubbling under the surface.

Police officers, many in full riot gear, spread out across the area to break up the main body of the gang and prevent a major disturbance.

The front window of one terraced house was smashed as the youths rampaged down a back street off the main Lozells Road. But police tactics to prevent a major disturbance appeared to be working.

Saturday night's violence erupted after residents attended a public meeting addressing concerns about an unconfirmed sex attack on a 14-year-old Jamaican girl, said to be an illegal immigrant.

The hotly-debated rumour at the centre of the trouble, which remains unsubstantiated, is that the girl was raped after shoplifting from a beauty product store owned by Asians.

The alleged assault sparked a week of mounting tension among the area's black and Asian communities, culminating in the outbreak.

Shops and pubs were ransacked and cars set on fire during the clash which is thought to have involved up to 50 rioters. Hundreds of police in riot gear were attacked with bricks and bottles.

One man, of Afro-Caribbean origin, received a single fatal stab wound in Carlisle Road at about 7pm. The attack is thought to have been the catalyst for the night of "extreme violence".

A police officer was shot in the leg with a ball-bearing gun. He is said to be in a stable condition.

Det Supt Dave Mirfield, leading the murder hunt, said police had received 12 reports of gunfire during the disturbances, 80 crimes were reported, with 35 people taken to hospital.

Five people were arrested in connection with the disorder.

A further five people were released on police bail after being questioned over allegations of a sexual assault on another woman who came forward following the publicity over the alleged attack on the 14-year-old.

Nine people remained in hospital last night after being treated for injuries suffered in the disturbances, a spokesman said.

Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust confirmed 35 injured people had been taken to City Hospital and the Sandwell Hospital.

The majority were treated for injuries including stabbing and gunshot wounds as well as broken bones and a fractured skull, a spokeswoman said.

Some of those will need further surgery, she added.

The Lozells area of Birmingham is not new to racial tension.

There is a strong Afro-Caribbean presence - the biggest contingent among the black population originating from Jamaica.

Asian gangs have also grown up in the area and there has been simmering tension between the two racial groups.

Supt Tom Coughlan told a news conference yesterday that the 14-year-old girl alleged to have been gang raped in a shop had still not come forward to tell her story.

Despite forensic searches of the beauty product shop, no evidence had been found to support such a claim, he said.

"As it stands, that victim has not come forward," he said. "We are desperate to talk to that person.

"We have treated this very seriously from the outset.

"I do not know whether this event has taken place, there is a lot of rumour, myth and speculation.

"There is nothing to support that particular allegation at the moment."