The Stockwell tube shooting (contd)

The maintainers of the Spy.org.uk blog commented on my earlier article about this:

The Times reports that the innocent Brasilian Jean Charles de Menezes waited for, and caught a Number 2 Bus from near his home too Stockwell Tube Station, and was “under surveillance” for more than 20 minutes.

Do the Operation Kratos “rules of engagement” value the lives of Bus passengers less than those of Tibe passengers ?

Why was this alleged suicide bomber allowed to board a Bus ? If he was not considered to be a “threat to life” on the Bus, then why was he considered to be one before he got to a Tube train ?

These are indeed important questions. If the police considered Mr Menezes to be a suicide bomber in the process of carrying out an attack then surely they should have stopped him before he got on the bus, or even as soon as he left his house? It is possible of course that it wasn’t until after he got off the bus that the police thought he might be a suicide bomber, but this is a vital question and demands an answer.

There is also the question of whether the police did enough to identify themselves as police when they challenged Mr Menezes. The eyewitness accounts suggest they did not shout “police” or “armed police”. This might be a factor in explaining why Mr Menezes ran.

There plenty of questions that need answered here. I hope the inquiry will answer them and that if the police are found to be at fault then those responsible face the music and that procedures are altered if necessary.

Nevertheless, I think that shooting to kill someone who is in the process of carrying out a suicide bombing attack is the right policy (if there is no safe alternative). And where possible we should try and stop these people before they set out to blow themselves up in crowded areas.

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The Stockwell tube shooting

After shooting a man dead on Friday, the police have announced that he was not in fact connected to the inquiry over the London bombings:

A Scotland Yard spokesman said last night that there would be an inquiry. “We are satisfied the victim of the Stockwell Tube shooting is not linked to our terrorist inquiry. For somebody to lose their life in such circumstances is a tragedy and one the Metropolitan police regrets.

“The man emerged from a block of flats in the Stockwell area that were under police surveillance as part of the investigation into the incidents on Thursday, July 21. He was followed by surveillance officers to the Underground station. His clothing and behaviour added to their suspicions. The circumstances that led to the man’s death are being investigated.”

Clearly things went badly wrong here for the police to shoot dead someone who was not carrying out a suicide attack, and one hopes that the investigation will clear up what exactly happened. It is too early to judge what happened here.

However, it seems to me that if the police had good reason to suspect that Mr Menezes was on his way to carrying out a suicide bombing, then they did not have much choice, when confronted with his refusal to obey police instructions to stop and his subsequent fleeing into a tube station including jumping a turnstile and running onto a tube train, but to do what they can to stop him. Had this really been a suicide bomber carrying out an attack, then it seems to me that shooting him dead was the right thing to do, to prevent many more lives being lost.

The sad fact is that since the emergence of suicide bombing in this country, the police face a very difficult situation when faced with someone they believe may be about to carry out such an attack. Failure to act could lead to dozens of people dying. Acting may require shooting the suspect dead. It follows that mistakes will be made.

Of course we should establish what happened to see if anything could have been done to prevent this tragedy, and if it becomes clear that the police had been incompetent then those responsible for the incompetence should face the music. But it is possible that, based on the information they had at the time of the incident, they had no choice but to do what they did. Such is the nature of the situation we face with the arrivial of suicide bombing in Britain.

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