Met Police condemned over aggressive arrest of black man in London over stabbing he is later cleared of

23-year-old sprayed with CS gas during detention by six officers, before being cleared of attack he had been suspected of

Peter Stubley
Sunday 07 October 2018 15:32 BST
Met police forcibly restrain black man after stop and search as he screams 'I can't breathe'

The Metropolitan Police has been accused of using excessive force to restrain a man who shouted “I can’t breathe” after being sprayed with CS gas.

Up to six officers were involved in detaining 23-year-old Kamar Hewitt after he was spotted smoking cannabis in a street in northwest London.

Footage of the incident on Thursday spread across social media, prompting Labour MP David Lammy and community groups to demand an investigation.

“Another example of the excessive use of force used against black men,” said Deborah Coles, director of the charity Inquest, which campaigns on the issue of deaths in custody.

“What can be the justification for the use of CS spray when he is being held down on ground by officers? You can see how quickly these situations can end in death”, she continued.

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott tweeted: "Too often a disproportionate level of force is used by police against young black men. It has to stop. Evidence based stop and search is important in fighting crime, but all that we see here is the type of video that poisons police-community relations."

The incident has now been referred to the Met's Directorate of Professional Standards.

A Met spokesperson said officers went to Craven Park Road in Harlesden at 3pm on Thursday after being informed that a suspect in a stabbing was in the area.

“Officers attended and approached the male who was seen to be smoking cannabis,” the spokesperson said. “The male was informed that he would be detained for a search.”

Footage of the incident begins with four officers surrounding the man as he tells them: “All you had to say is a cannabis spliff ... calm down blud.”

One officer is heard to make a comment about a knife, before another tells the man to “release your hand now”.

The man then complains about his foot being kicked, as a bystander shouts: “You can’t kick him like that”.

As two further officers join in the struggle, bystanders shout out: “It’s just one guy” and “One person, six police officer!”

One woman voices concerns that the man could be killed.

The man eventually falls down on to the ground as the officers continue to attempt to handcuff his arms behind his back.

One officer can be seen using CS spray, leading to complaints from witnesses. The man shouts: “I can’t breathe!”

Charmaine Brown, who posted the video, asked: “Why does it take so many officers to detain one man? Why are they still beating him and constantly spraying him in the face when he is already down. I saw lots of minutes where they could have just handcuffed him quickly.”

Hewitt was initially arrested on suspicion of GBH, possession of cannabis, obstructing a drugs search and two counts of assault on police but was later eliminated as a suspect in a stabbing.

On Friday night he was was charged with possession of cannabis, obstructing a drugs search and two counts of assault on police. The Met said it did not have any details as to how much cannabis was involved.

In a statement, issued before Hewitt was charged, the force defended the actions of its officers, who were all using body worn video cameras during the arrest.

“The male was informed that he would be detained for a search,” said a spokesperson. “He refused to follow instructions and resisted police efforts to restrain him for the search.

“Due to the nature of the offence the male was suspected to be involved in, a number of officers worked to detain the male and approved techniques were used to place him in handcuffs. CS spray was also used.”

One officer was treated for minor injuries after bottles were thrown at police by the crowd at the scene, but there have been no other arrests.

David Lammy MP tweeted: “I’ve received complaints today about this video which appears to show gratuitous force used against a man found with a spliff. I will be writing to the Met Commissioner and expect @IOPC_Help to investigate.”

Dozens of social media users responded by claiming that the officers were using reasonable force because the suspect was resisting arrest.

One replied: “This video does not show gratuitous force. It shows calm professional officers struggling to apply handcuffs to a man who is clearly too strong for them. It is only after the spray is used the officers manage to gain enough control to successfully apply handcuffs!”

Hewitt appeared in court on Saturday and will appear at Harrow Crown Court on 2 November.

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