Sunday, July 24, 2005

The Battle of Stockwell: We Lost

Well, now we know. The man the Met shot five times in Stockwell tube station was completely innocent. What went on in south London in the last two days (the shooting, the multiple arrests) was a major battle in the war that seems to be emerging about us. And we lost. Fortunately, the dead man was not a Muslim, or all hell would probably have broken loose. But it's bad enough - imagine the cranking-up of the level of fear and the greater alienation from the police. One of the reasons suicide bombing works is precisely because the possibility of suicide bombers causes police and troops to shoot at anyone they suspect. Exactly this occurred in the first weeks in Iraq.

But the problem is worse than one shooting. Remember the time-line: he was under surveillance as a suspect, he was followed to the tube, they attempted to arrest him and he ran away, then they shot him. Surveillance is an incredibly resource-guzzling business; I recently read that a successful operation against an IRA Quartermaster in the early 90s used no less than sixty agents from the MI5 surveillance force, the Watchers, to say nothing of the police contribution. So, God knows what percentage of the available surveillance force was busy following an innocent man around, and ended up shooting him. Where is the terrorist they were meant to be following?

Another point: you may remember the long-running case regarding Harry Stanley, an Irishman who was shot by the Met because he was carrying a table leg in a bag, which some bloke in a pub convinced himself was a gun. The courts found the police guilty of unlawfully killing Stanley, the police appealed, the case continues. What happened to Stanley was that, in profound peace, someone shouted "Freeze! Armed police!" at him from behind. Now, I really doubt anybody who wasn't expecting to be challenged by armed police would not have turned their head in the direction of the noise, especially if they'd been drinking. And they immediately plugged him. (It's now in doubt, after re-examination of the forensics, whether he did in fact turn as the police claimed.) The man shot in the tube came from a country where it is not uncommon for people to be shot in the streets by some nameless authority for reasons that are never given, to one where the police do not even usually carry anything deadly. I suppose that was why, when he realised he was being followed by men with guns (in civilian clothes), he ran away. We are, however, now a country where you can be shot at any time for any or no reason.

There are the usual explanations. Split-second decision...need to maintain confidence..haunted for ever more. Of course, there is some truth to 'em, but it wasn't a "split-second decision" to put him under surveillance as a suspected terrorist, and if that had not happened he would never have been shot. Sir Ian Blair should probably resign, but it isn't going to happen. We are, after all, at War.

Slightly off-topic, Robert Sneddon comments that:
" The Glock pistols and most other pistols don't burst-fire. There are a few which can do this but only if they are mated to a shoulder-stock, and this would make the pistol very bulky and not able to fit into a belt holster. The H&K VP-70Z and Beretta 93-R are two such pistols."
Some googling suggests otherwise, here for example, or here, which seems a better source. However, it's the Glock-18 or -18C that is the select-fire version. Whether the police have them or not I dunno. That's quite enough gunblogging.


ziz said...

Bob Crow General Secretary RMT Union

Press release 22nd July 2005 RMT Website

“Their concerns will have been fuelled by the revelation that an innocent Tube driver today found himself with a police gun at his head during the incident in Stockwell station in which a suspect was shot dead.

“No apology could ever be enough ever take away the trauma that that driver has suffered and there should be a full inquiry into the handling of the incident,”

Naturally press / media reports have been confused and confusing. "Official" statements have been minimal.

I saw the story that the train driver escaped from the train and ran into the tunnel and was there held up against the wall, by a highly trained plain clothes "policeman" who drawing on his extensive training, took a split millisecond decision not to pump him full of lead.

I think this driver , has like other eye witnesses, a tale to tell. Who gave the orders to delay the train ? Why ? Who gave orders to shut / open doors. Why ? Why did the driver leg it ?

Anonymous said...

Why are Bus passengers considered to be more expendable than Tube passengers ?

According to The Times:

The innocent Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes took a Number 2 Bus from his home near Tulse Hill to Stockwell Tube station, and was under surveillance for 26 minutes.

Even if he had been mistaken for a suicide bomber (and his photos do not look anything like the CCTV images of the 4 suspects) , then why was he allowed to stand in a bus queue and get on a Bus, before being challenged by the Police ?

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