Sharif Cousins: IPCC investigation underway after police shoot charity founder in Birmingham

Mr Cousins, a former gang member, is fighting for his life in hospital

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Friday 28 July 2017 10:30
Police at the scene where armed officers shot a man in Hereford Close, Frankley, Birmingham.
Police at the scene where armed officers shot a man in Hereford Close, Frankley, Birmingham.

An investigation is underway after police shot a charity founder in the chest in Birmingham.

Sharif Cousins, a former gang member who served time in prison before starting the New Day Foundation, is fighting for his life in hospital.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission said it was carrying out a “thorough, independent investigation” into the incident in Frankley, Birmingham on Wednesday night.

Residents told the Birmingham Mail they heard shouting and a gunshot ring out before looking outside to see Hereford Close “teeming with police” as a helicopter circled overhead.

A spokesperson for West Midlands Police said a man in his early forties, identified locally as Mr Cousins, was shot by an armed officer and taken to hospital.

His condition was described as “critical and stable” after undergoing surgery at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, where he is understood to remain in an induced coma with his family at his side.

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The IPCC said armed police were deployed to the area at around 9pm “in response to intelligence received relating to firearms offences”.

“We have gathered police body-worn video which captured footage of the incident, and this will be reviewed,” a spokesperson added, saying investigators were carrying out house-to-house enquiries.

“A police firearm has been secured. There is early evidence to indicate a single shot was fired by one police officer.”

A 21-year-old man was arrested for suspected firearms offences following the incident, while two other men, aged 17 and 20, and a 53-year-old woman were arrested on suspicion of drugs offences.

Mr Cousins’ LinkedIn page lists him as director of the New Day Foundation, stating its aim to “unite communities starting with my own in Birmingham”.

He set up the charity in 2011, after serving almost 14 years in prison including an eight-year term for firearms offences and intent to endanger life as a member of the notorious Burger Bar Boys.

The gang, taking their name from a café where they were based, were locked in a violent feud with rivals the Johnson Crew in the late 1990s and 2000s that sparked a series of shootings amid a turf war over drug dealing and extortion.

In an interview with the BBC in 2013, Mr Cousins said he realised during his time in prison that he “didn’t want to be part of the problem anymore”.

“It would have been easier to go back to gang life but I want to make a difference to the place where I live,” he added, saying he started the New Day Foundation to help persuade young people “not to get sucked in” to gang culture.

The Foundation’s website no longer works and official social media accounts have not been active since 2013.

“We will be carrying out a thorough, independent investigation into this serious incident, as is appropriate when police use potentially lethal force,” said Derrick Campbell, commissioner of the IPCC.

“We are making contact with the man’s family and will ensure they are updated on the progress of our investigation.”

The West Midlands police and crime commissioner, David Jamieson, said it was the first police shooting in the county since 2000, with the last fatal shooting 20 years ago.

“To put this in context, this is extremely rare, for officers to open fire,” he told local radio.

Figures released by the IPCC this week showed British police fatally shot a record number of people in the past year, with six people killed in the 12 months to March – including the Westminster attacker Khalid Masood.

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