A decorated former Scotland Yard marksman involved in a botched armed operation against a drugs gang was charged yesterday with murdering one of the suspects.
Known only as E7, he is just the third officer in the last two decades to be charged with murdering a suspect in the line of duty.
The officer was charged after a public inquiry found last year that the decision to fire two fatal bursts of gunfire at Azelle Rodney nine years ago was irrational and without “lawful justification”.
Mr Rodney, 24, was killed after undercover police teams rammed a car carrying him and two others who were believed to be on their way to rob a group of Colombian drug dealers of a stash of cocaine. The officer had been due to provide cover for his colleagues during the operation and told the inquiry that he believed Mr Rodney had picked up a gun and was about to use it.
The prosecution comes eight years after the Crown Prosecution Service had previously declined to charge the officer after an investigation by a watchdog which found nothing to criticise in the police operation.
“I am very pleased at the CPS’s decision to prosecute the officer who killed my son,” said the dead man’s mother Susan Alexander. “I have waited a long time to see this day and hope this prosecution will lead to justice for Azelle.”
Suspects of crime are normally named when they are charged but the now-retired officer was given anonymity before he gave evidence at the 11-week inquiry into the fatal shooting. The inquiry heard that the officer had lawfully previously shot four people, including two fatally, during the 1980s and had been commended for bravery for his role in arresting an armed man.
The head of the inquiry, Sir Christopher Holland, found that E7 had changed his story and there was little or no justification for seven of the eight shots that he fired within two seconds.
“I have to find that there was no lawful justification of shooting Azelle Rodney so as to kill him,” the report said. In relation to the four fatal shots, Sir Christopher concluded: “I am wholly satisfied that firing so as to kill him … was disproportionate and therefore unreasonable and unlawful.”
Backed by Scotland Yard and the Police Federation, the officer went to court to challenge the finding that the shooting had been “irrational” but lost his case. The Federation indicated it would continue to pay the officer’s legal expenses when the case went to court. The former officer declined to comment through his solicitor.
Alison Saunders, the Director of Public Prosecutions, said: “We have carefully considered the new file of evidence submitted to us and have decided that a former Metropolitan Police officer, currently identified only as E7, will be prosecuted for murder. We have determined that there is a realistic prospect of conviction and that a prosecution is in the public interest.”
The family said that it was disappointed that prosecutors did not support a prosecution against the force because of failures over the planning and oversight of the operation on April 30, 2005.
Sir Christopher reported there had been a “systemic failure of communication” between the firearms team and senior officers running the operation, and opportunities were missed to arrest Mr Rodney before his car was stopped outside a packed pub in north London. “Due to the active legal proceedings against E7, we are unable to provide further reasoning for our decisions at this stage,” said the CPS.