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London police killed innocent man yesterday

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/24/international/24london.html?ei=5065&en=b04575c1815189bb&ex=1122782400&partner=MYWAY&pagewanted=print July 24, 2005 Britian
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 23, 2005

      July 24, 2005
      Britian Says Man Killed by Police Had No Tie to

      LONDON, July 23 - Scotland Yard admitted Saturday that
      a man police officers gunned down at point-blank range
      in front of horrified subway passengers on Friday had
      nothing to do with the investigation into the bombing
      attacks here.

      The man was identified by police as Jean Charles de
      Menezes, a 27-year-old Brazilian, described by
      officers as an electrician on his way to work. "He was
      not connected to incidents in central London on 21st
      July, 2005, in which four explosive devices were
      partly detonated," a police statement said.

      At the same time, the police said they had found a
      link between four attackers on July 7 and the men who
      tried to carry out carbon copy attacks July 21. The
      July 7 attacks killed the bombers and 52 others.

      A flier in a backpack found with undetonated
      explosives on a London bus was for a whitewater
      rafting center at Bala, North Wales, where two of the
      July 7 bombers had been photographed just weeks before
      the attack, a police official said.

      The police also said late Saturday that after the
      failed attacks on July 21, they found a mysterious
      package - possibly a fifth explosive device - in
      Little Wormwood Scrubs, northwest of London.

      The explosive was "almost exactly the same" as ones in
      the failed attacks on that day, a police official

      Of the fast-unfolding developments, the most
      overwhelming for many Londoners, was the police
      admission that an apparently innocent man had been
      gunned down in full public view - a killing that left
      the city even more rattled after a wave of attacks,
      alarms, scares and shootings that, in a brief three
      weeks has propelled London from the euphoria of the
      Live 8 concert in Hyde Park to a sense of embattled

      "For somebody to lose their life in such circumstances
      is a tragedy and one that the Metropolitan Police
      Service regrets," a police statement said, noting that
      the police had started a formal inquiry.

      The admission by the police that it had killed a man
      not involved in the investigation revived and fueled
      an already tense debate over the arming of British
      police officers. It also came after a series of police
      misstatements since July 7 when the first bombers
      struck. [Page 10.]

      The shooting shocked many of the country's 1.6 million
      Muslims, already alarmed by a publicly acknowledged
      shoot-to-kill policy directed against suspected
      suicide bombers. And it has dealt a major setback to
      the police inquiry into suspected terrorist cells in

      "This really is an appalling set of circumstances,"
      said John O'Connor, a former police commander. "The
      consequences are quite horrible." Azzam Tamimi, head
      of the Muslim Association of Britain, said: "This is
      very frightening. People will be afraid to walk the
      streets, or go on the tube, or carry anything in their

      A cousin of the dead man, interviewed on Brazil's
      leading television network, identified him as João
      Alves Menezes and said he was an electrician who had
      been working in England for more than three years. The
      cousin, Alex Pereira Alves, identified Mr. Menezes'
      body in London, the network said.

      Mr. Menezes was from the interior state of Minas
      Gerais, home of the bulk of migrants from Brazil to
      the United States and Europe and had been in Britain
      legally, Mr. Alves said. He would have been on his way
      to work that morning, he said, and had no reason to
      flee the police.

      "How could they have done such a thing as to kill him
      from behind?" Mr. Alves told the Globo Television
      Network. "How could they have confused and killed a
      light-skinned person who had no resemblance at all to
      an Asian?"

      Another cousin, in an interview with Brazil's national
      radio network, said Mr. Menezes understood English
      well and would have understood the officer's

      In an official statement issued late Saturday, the
      Brazilian government said it was "shocked and
      perplexed" by the killing and was waiting for an

      The shooting occurred the day after the copycat
      attackers tried to bomb three other subway trains and
      a bus, but their bombs failed to explode. Plainclothes
      police officers staking out an apartment followed a
      man who emerged from it, then chased him into the
      Stockwell subway station and onto a train. The man
      tripped, and one of the officers in pursuit fired five
      rounds at point-blank range.

      After the shooting, Sir Ian Blair, the police
      commissioner, said the man was "directly linked to the
      ongoing and expanding antiterrorist operation," and
      the police issued images taken from closed-circuit
      cameras of four suspects in the failed attacks. They
      said that, while the man they shot may not have been
      one of the four, he was still being sought in their

      A Friday statement said that the man's "clothing and
      his behavior at the station added to their
      suspicions," apparently referring to reports that the
      man was wearing bulky jacket on a summer day.

      Through most of Saturday, the police refused to give
      any further details. Then, in the late afternoon,
      Scotland Yard issued its statement admitting the
      "mistake." So far in the investigation, the police
      have detained two suspects. It was not clear whether
      those men were among the four caught on security

      In the latest alarm on Saturday, police cordoned off
      an area in north-west London, and Peter Clarke, head
      of London's Anti-Terrorist police, said: "The object
      appears to have been left in the bushes, rather than
      hidden. Naturally this is a matter of concern."

      The link between the two bombing teams, at the white
      water rafting center in north Wales, is the latest in
      a series of connections made by detectives since
      Thursday. They have found that the bombs for both
      teams were made of the same homemade material, were
      roughly the same size and were carried in similar
      backpacks, officials said.

      Asked if Prime Minister Tony Blair would address the
      killing of Mr. Menezes, a spokeswoman said Mr. Blair
      was "kept updated on all developments, but this is a
      matter for the Metropolitan Police. We have nothing to
      add." But with the nation jittery after the attacks
      and the shooting, Mr. Blair was expected to confront
      political passions likely to be inflamed by what his
      critics are depicting as excesses of a war on
      terrorism that have eroded freedoms.

      "This policy is another overreaction of the government
      and police," said Ajmal Masroor, a spokesman for the
      Islamic Society of Britain.

      Adding to the tensions, both the government and the
      police have sought the support of British Muslims to
      assist in the inquiry.

      "This will turn people against the police, and this is
      not good," said Mr. Tamimi, of the Muslim Association.
      "We want that people stay beside the police. We need
      to convince the people to cooperate."

      Civil rights groups also seemed likely to demand new
      curbs on the police at precisely the moment officers
      have been given much freer hand to pursue the
      investigation into the bombings.

      "No one should rush to judgment in any case of this
      kind, especially at a time of heightened tension,"
      said Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, a civil
      and human rights group, calling for a "comprehensive
      and independent investigation."

      She acknowledged, however, that officers faced
      "knife-edged, split-second decisions often made in
      times of great danger."

      In a country used to unarmed police officers, the
      shooting seemed to be a stark turning point - one that
      seemed even more portentous after the police admission
      on Saturday.

      The killing revived a never-resolved debate among the
      public and the police over the arming of officers. In
      one recent case, officers faced trial after shooting a
      man carrying a wooden table leg in the mistaken belief
      that he was armed.

      Some police officers authorized to carry weapons now
      say they prefer not to because of the risk of
      prosecution if they make mistakes.

      Normally British police officers are under orders to
      give ample warming and, if they have no choice but to
      open fire, to aim to wound. However, according to
      London's mayor, Ken Livingstone, that has given way to
      a shoot-to-kill policy in some circumstances.

      "If you are dealing with someone who might be a
      suicide bomber, if they remain conscious they could
      trigger plastic explosives or whatever device is on
      them. And therefore overwhelmingly in these
      circumstances it is going to be a shoot-to-kill
      policy," he said after the shooting Friday, but before
      the acknowledgment by the police that the dead man was
      not part of the inquiry.

      Police guidelines for dealing with suspected suicide
      bombers recommend shooting at the head rather than the
      body in case the suspect is carrying explosives.

      Except in Northern Ireland, at airports and nuclear
      facilities, British police officers are not routinely
      armed. A small percentage of officers - roughly 7
      percent in London - have weapons training, which is
      also required for the use of Taser stun guns,
      available to nearly all police forces. As routine
      weapons, officers carry batons and tear-gas-like
      spray. Of more than 30,000 officers in London, around
      2,000 are authorized to carry weapons, a Scotland Yard
      spokesman said, speaking anonymously under police

      Even before Saturday's police statement, Britons had
      been bracing to see how their vaunted sense of fair
      play and civil rights survives the onslaught by
      attackers and the measures to combat it.

      "Many civil liberties will have to be infringed to
      impose the requirement on all communities, including
      Britain's Muslims, to destroy the terrorists before
      they destroy us," the author Tom Bower wrote in The
      Daily Mail on Saturday.

      The country's Muslim minority has expressed
      vulnerability to a backlash since it was announced
      that the July 7 bombers were all Muslims, three of
      them British-born descendants of Pakistani immigrants
      in the northern city of Leeds. Groups linked to Al
      Qaeda have claimed responsibility for both sets of

      The Islamic Human Rights Commission said it feared
      that "innocent people may lose their lives due to the
      new shoot-to-kill policy of the Metropolitan Police."

      The rash of attacks, incidents, alarms and arrests has
      rocked a city that, even during the days of I.R.A.
      attacks was used to being warned in advance about
      bombings. Indeed, after several years of an I.R.A.
      truce in mainland Britain, the howl of police sirens,
      the popping of gunfire and the thud of explosives has
      ended a mood of complacency underpinned by Britain's
      relative prosperity.

      Now, after the bombings on July 7, the attempts on
      July 21, and the shooting incident, the city seems far
      less sure of itself.

      "The realization that the events of July 7 were not an
      isolated conspiracy has changed the way that we travel
      on the city's public transport system, probably
      forever," Damian Whitworth wrote in The Times of
      London, recounting how "suspicion, fear and panic
      spread like a virus" through the subways.

      The Independent said, "There seems to be a state of
      denial about the pervasive sense of fear that exists
      in London at the moment."

      At the same time, British authorities are facing
      unusually frank criticism from officials and leaders
      of some Muslim states.

      Prince Turki al-Faisal, the Saudi ambassador, said in
      a radio interview on Friday that it was a "true
      criticism" to say Britain had offered sanctuary too
      easily. "Allowing them to go on using the hospitality
      and the generosity of the British people to emanate
      from here such calls for killing and such I think is

      President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan also noted that
      some Islamic groups banned in Pakistan "operate with
      impunity" in Britain.

      Reporting for this article was contributed by Stephen
      Grey, Souad Mekhennet and Hélène Fouquet in London,
      William K. Rashbaum in New York and Larry Rohter in
      Rio de Janeiro.
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