Officer was found to have shot man lawfully because he ‘honestly believed’ he was a threat
The mother of an unarmed Black man who was shot dead in a botched police operation to prevent a prison break has said his life was “taken for no good reason”.
A public inquiry found that although he was not carrying a weapon at the time, he was lawfully killed because the officer who shot him “honestly believed” he was a lethal threat.
It found 24 failures in the planning and execution of the police operation, but said they fell short of gross negligence and did not cause or contribute to Mr Baker’s death.
His mother, Margaret Smith, said she was so angered by the contents of the report that initially she threw it and stormed out of the room.
She said the family “deserved more” after seven years of campaigning and legal battles for answers.
“Jermaine was dead before he got in that car,” Ms Smith said. “His life was taken for no good reason – as I have always said he should have gone to prison like the rest of the men in the car.
“I therefore cannot agree with the chair’s conclusions that Jermaine did not die as a result of these failures. That is a conclusion that I cannot understand.”
Tia Demetrio, Mr Baker’s partner, a déclaré à l'agence de presse PA: “The Met failed Jermaine and failed the public.
”To say that is a lawful killing knowing that all those failures did contribute to Jermaine’s death … it is mind-blowing that he has come to these conclusions.”
Ms Demetrio added: “I don’t think the chairman has asked the right questions. He should really have asked himself if these failures did not happen would Jermaine still be alive? And I know Jermaine would still be alive.”
Relatives have long battled for justice over the shooting, challenging the Crown Prosecution Service’s decision not to charge the officer who killed him and unsuccessfully taking Scotland Yard to court over their decision to let a commanding officer retire before potential disciplinary action.
Michael Oswald, the solicitor for the family, mentionné: “Given the extent of these failings and the obvious role they must have played in Jermaine’s death, the family is at a total loss to understand how the judge can have come to the conclusion that Jermaine did not die as a result of those failures.”
The report was published a week after the Metropolitan Police was put into special measures by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary over a range of concerns, including a series of high-profile incidents that have damaged public trust.
Anita Sharma, of the Inquest justice charity, mentionné: “This report is yet more evidence of the systemic failures of this force, and harmful policing practices nationally.
“We must see accountability for those involved in Jermaine’s death, to send a message to police leadership and officers that they are not above the law. The failure to hold police to account breeds impunity which ultimately allows deaths and harms to continue.”
The inquiry’s chair, retired judge Clement Goldstone QC, concluded that race “played no part in Mr Baker’s death”.
He was part of a plan to intercept a custody van carrying Izzet Eren, a member of the Tottenham Turks gang, as he was transported to Wood Green Crown Court to be sentenced for possessing a Skorpion sub-machine gun with intent to endanger life.
The conspirators used a stolen Audi, but it was bugged by the police and then targeted by an armed “extraction” operation to arrest those inside.
The armed police carrying out the operation were not told that the suspects had only been able to source an imitation gun rather than a live weapon, and senior officers did not include alternatives such as an earlier arrest or putting Eren under tighter security.
The officer who shot Mr Baker, known as W80, said that at the time of the operation he believed there was going to be an attack “by a group of experienced and dangerous individuals who would be armed and would use firearms”.
W80 said he opened the passenger door and told Mr Baker to put his hands on the dashboard, but a transcript of the incident shows that other armed police were shouting “get your hands up”.
The officer shot Mr Baker as his hands rose towards a cross-body bag high on his chest.
Asked if the movement was “consistent with him putting up his hands in an indication of surrender”, W80 said he did not hear his fellow officers shouting for the car’s occupants to raise their hands and added: “I couldn’t wait for his hands to reach the bag…I was sure that there was a gun in the bag.”
He fired once, hitting Mr Baker in the neck. He received medical attention but was pronounced dead at the scene.
Mr Goldstone concluded that the killing was lawful because W80 “held an honest and genuine belief that Mr Baker was moving in order to reach for a firearm” and posed a lethal threat.
“W80 may have been tragically wrong in his belief but I am unable to conclude that it was not honestly held," il ajouta.
Scotland Yard refused to commence disciplinary proceedings against W80 for excessive force in 2018, sparking a legal battle with the Independent Office for Police Conduct that is yet to be heard at the Supreme Court.
A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police said: “Since Mr Baker’s death we have made changes to how our firearms command operates in London, including how operations are run and overseen, how we train and support officers involved and how we keep records.
“We are always open to improving our capability to tackle the threat of firearms.”