Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Things about the de Menezes shooting I didn't know yesterday...

First, let me ask that everyone who is calling the police murderers or baby killers, and everyone who figures Mr. de Menezes "got what he deserved" for wearing a heavy coat and not obeying police, to take a deep breath. The number of things we know about this shooting is few, the list of unanswered questions is as long as my arm, and considering how relieved many people were just days ago that police had killed an attempted suicide bomber, should we not have learned not to jump to conclusions quite so quickly?

That being said, here are a few things I learned today that I didn't know yesterday:

1) Mr. de Menezes didn't just walk to the Tube station, he was followed onto a Number 2 bus by police (!) on his way to the station.

2) Apparently, Mr. de Menezes wasn't actually shot "in the torso" as so widely described in the blogosphere. The account that seems to have the most weight today is that he was shot 7 times in the head and once in the shoulder (presumably a missed attempt to hit his head as well). But the number of shots, and their placement has changed many times in media accounts, so it may be some time (post- autopsy) before we're sure. If true, all of these "head shots" at least lend credence to the idea that police genuinely believed that he was a potential bomber, no matter how faulty their reasoning leading up to that conclusion.

3) The story of Mr. de Menezes being an "illegal immigrant" seems to be as much innuendo as anything. The Home Office has refused to comment on his immigration status, but it at least seems clear that, at worst, he was a formerly legal immigrant whose Visa had expired (which would mean he was working illegally, not in the country illegally, but even this seems to be a supposition, based on little, if any evidence).

Now for what we still don't know (a HUGE amount, here are some highlights):

1) We don't know how the (undercover) police identified themselves, and even police statements don't make clear whether police addressed Mr. de Menezes face to face, or the nature of what they said. This is one of the most important things people seem to skip over. Some bloggers have even said that Mr. de Menezes was given "ample opportunity" to surrender (what reports they're reading I don't know) but personally, while I know that he was running from the police, I still have no idea whether he knew that, and I imagine it may be sometime before I do.

2)We don't know whether two reports, one that Mr. de Menezes had been mugged the week before, and another that he had been beaten up in a bar the week before are true. (if so, they would seem to give him reason to run away from armed men who weren't in uniform, and seemed determined to do him harm).

3) We have no idea when police determined he was a potential bomber, or more specifically a suicide bomber (surely his clothes and the building he lived in are not enough to justify deadly force, or shouldn't be) . That they followed him suggests they were at least suspicious the moment he left his apartment building, but when (and more importantly how) did they decide he was a threat? BEFORE he got on the bus? After? When he failed to stop for them? When he ran towards the Tube? When he jumped on the train? As someone in the blogosphere said (I can't remember who I'm afraid) Once you start chasing someone with the intent of stopping them from setting off a bomb, it's already over.

As for the blogosphere's handling of the story, right now I'm none too thrilled with the left wing or the right wing. Half the sphere seems to want the police drawn and quartered (as though police would never be justified in killing a suspected bomber, and these officers MUST have been irresponsible cowboys, not dutiful public servants who made a horrible mistake in a difficult circumstance), and the other half seems to feel almost giddy that the police are finally shooting first and asking questions never ('bout time we started being serious, they say, completely unphased by the innocence of the man shot, and not at all worried about more innocent people getting caught in the crossfire). So everyone. Breath. We don't know nearly enough about what actually happened to be making such bold pronouncements (hey, look at me trying to stop bold pronouncements in the blogosphere!).

Sometimes, police have to use deadly force to protect the public, and sometimes they will make honest mistakes. Sometimes, people run from the police for reasons entirely unrelated to the reason the police are chasing them (and sometimes, people don't hear instructions so well when confronted by men with guns, no matter what they're saying).

Sometimes, if you don't shoot, the consequences will be disastrous. And sometimes, a bulky coat is just a fashion statement.

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3 comments:

Case Yorke said...

I think, Lord Kitch, you have to keep in perspective the frightening prospect of police officers having the right to shoot a suspect down on nothing less than a judgment call. That's what the shoot-to-kill policy is.

That's why our lefty comrades are having a fit. It's a scary prospect indeed, especially when you have the loonies on the right thinking it's a good idea.

Say I'm walking out of a building under police surveillance in a bulky coat, then rummage around my pockets to pull out my iPod. A cop watching me from afar makes his analysis: big coat, small box, wires... see how this can turn ugly real fast?

It's one thing to feel unsafe because of terrorism. It's another to feel unsafe because of those who are supposed to protect you.

Mike said...

Nice post LKO.

I hope that I am one of the more moderate vocies from the left on this (along with wonderdog). Mistakes happen. Rather than sweep this under the table, learn from the mistakes so they aren't repeated. And if there was wrongdoing on the part of the police, deal with that as well.

But what we really need is the truth.

Mike said...

http://www.guardian.co.uk/attackonlondon/story/0,16132,1537613,00.html

A little more info - no bulky jacket, not jumping of the turn styles....

Oh boy.