August 17, 2005

London Inquiry Refutes Police in Their Killing of a Suspect


LONDON, Aug. 16 - An official investigation was reported Tuesday to have directly contradicted the police account of the killing of a young Brazilian man after the bombing attempts in London on July 21, including the assertion that he had been fleeing officers when he was shot.

The man, Jean Charles de Menezes, a 27-year-old electrician, was shot several times in front of horrified passengers on July 22 on a subway train at Stockwell station, in South London. The killing came a day after four attackers failed to detonate bombs in what seemed to be a copy of the deadly bombings two weeks earlier, and it intensified an already emotional debate over the introduction of armed police units.

At the time, the police said Mr. Menezes wore a bulky jacket on a hot day, began running from officers despite commands to halt, vaulted the ticket turnstile and ran stumbling onto the subway train.

On Tuesday, however, a news report on British television said an inquiry led by the Independent Police Complaints Commission had contradicted every one of those points. The report said that the officers had misidentified Mr. Menezes as one of the failed July 21 attackers and that he was killed even though he walked into the subway station wearing a light denim jacket, did not vault the turnstile and was sitting on the train when the officers moved in.

Neither the police nor the Independent Police Complaints Commission heading the inquiry denied the news report, but both declined to comment substantively on it.

The killing brought alarm from opponents of arming police units and from Muslim groups who feared that officers were singling them out after the July 7 bombings, in which 52 civilians and 4 bombers were killed.

The events at Stockwell station were said to have been captured on closed circuit television cameras of the type that proved central to identifying the bombers on July 21 at other locations, where their explosives failed to detonate properly.

Initial accounts quoting witnesses said the man had been pursued and shot as part of a "shoot to kill" policy intended to prevent potential bombers from detonating their explosives.

The documents broadcast on Tuesday, however, said that the man had not seemed to react to being followed, and that the officers mistakenly identified him as one of the July 21 bombers just as he boarded the train.

At that point, according to the report, one officer suddenly pinned Mr. Menezes and another shot him. The report quoted an unidentified officer as saying: "I grabbed the male in the denim jacket by wrapping both my arms around his torso, pinning his arms to his side. I then pushed him back onto the seat where he had been previously sitting. I then heard a gunshot very close to my left ear and was dragged away onto the floor of the carriage."

In a parallel development, Charles Clarke, the home secretary, said Tuesday that the police had found no direct evidence of a link between the July 7 and July 21 attacks.

Separately on Tuesday, the police in Manchester said they had arrested four people on terrorism charges not related to the July bombings.