Monday, July 25, 2005

Rush to Judgment?

(Via Sky News)

Much has been made recently of the shooting death of Brazillian Jean Charles de Menezes on Friday by London's Metropolitan Police at Stockwell Station. I would agree that it would be a tragedy if the police killed a truly innocent man, but the facts leave some doubt as to whether or not this is true:

The shooting happened at 10am when armed plain clothes police officers shot Mr de Menezes as he tried to board a train at the underground station.

He had emerged from a nearby house that was under surveillance because of a suspected link to Thursday's attempted bomb attacks. His clothing and behaviour added to the officers' suspicions.

He caught a bus to Stockwell Tube where he was challenged by officers, who told him to stop. The man then bolted down an escalator, according to witnesses.

It appears he tried to board a train before being shot five times in the head by an officer with an automatic pistol.

If it is true that he had no connection to the recent terrorist attacks in London, his behavior when confronted would, I think, lead any reasonable law enforcement officer to assume otherwise: He left a home under surveillance in suspicious clothing, boarded a bus to Stockwell Tube, was told to stop by officers, but instead ran toward a train in an attempt to board it. It seems to me that this man had an opportunity to save his own life. Why he didn't is known only to him. Without knowing why, it's hard to criticize the officers involved.

If de Menezes was innocent, his actions certainly indicated otherwise. Why would a person run if they had nothing to hide? We don't know. We only know that he ran. Considering the current events of the last couple of weeks, I would think the last thing an innocent person would do when confronted by police is run toward a train. Again, the reason he ran was known only to him. What assumption would you have made if you were placed in the same situation as the Metropolitan Police based on everything that had occured in the last two weeks?

My point is this: I don't think that anyone should rush to judgment against the Metropolitan Police in this situation. For all they knew, this man was heading toward a train to detonate a bomb. Since he did not stop when asked, what other assumption could they have made? I believe they erred on the side of saving lives and had only a split second to make that determination. They did what they were trained to do.

Assuming a bomb had been detonated and many were killed as a result of inaction by the Metropolitan Police, they would be facing questions about why they did nothing to stop it.
Is it really fair to put the people sworn to protect you in a situation where they are wrong regardless of the action they take?
It is possible that Mr. de Menezes was a victim of being in the wrong place at the wrong time and ran because he truly feared for his life, but I'm not prepared to indict the police without absolute proof that they acted irresponsibly.

As sad as this must be for the victim's family and loved ones, I truly believe the police acted in the most responsible way they could given the circumstances. They acted on their instincts and made the only decision they could in the time allowed. I think at the very least, the Metropolitan Police deserve the benefit of the doubt.

Thanks to Outside the Beltway and Mudville Gazette


Technorati talk bubble
Locations of visitors to this page