London police killed innocent man yesterday
July 24, 2005
Britian Says Man Killed by Police Had No Tie to
By ALAN COWELL and DON VAN NATTA Jr.
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
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
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
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
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.