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July 23, 2005

Wrong Guy.

From Robin Grant comes the Sky and BBC pages on a Metropolitan  Police press release.

A Scotland Yard statement said the shooting was a "tragedy" which was regretted by the Metropolitan Police.

The man was shot dead after police followed him from a south London flat to Stockwell Tube station on Friday.

Two other men have been arrested and are being questioned after bombers targeted three Tube trains and a bus.

The statement read: "We believe we now know the identity of the man shot at Stockwell Underground station by police on Friday 22nd July 2005, although he is still subject to formal identification.

"We are now satisfied that he was not connected with the incidents of Thursday 21st July 2005.

"For somebody to lose their life in such circumstances is a tragedy and one that the Metropolitan Police Service regrets."

As I said at the time, I was hoping like hell that the guy was in fact a bomber, was not just some poor schlep who got five shots in the head for being a fool and not stopping and talking to the police.

Unfortunately I was wrong.

Yes, I know. I’m aware of the arguments, that he should have stopped, that the police did the right things, that they were immobilising someone they thought was a bomber.....well, maybe, but they hadn’t id’d him as an actual bomber, although he was acting suspiciously.

What worried me then and worries me now is that while we don’t actually have oppression of Muslims or foreigners in the UK, those who wish to stir things up now have an example of a man shot (in their possible words, not what I believe) for being foreign looking in London.

My original words:

I may be well out of step here with what others think but we’d better damn well hope that guy had a bomb on him. Executing someone for being Asian isn’t going to help race relations now is it?

That worries me. Perhaps it shouldn’t but it does.

As Nosemonkey says:

Note to anyone who looks remotely dark-skinned, has black hair etc. - if police are present, DO NOT RUN.

July 23, 2005 in Current Affairs | Permalink


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» Not A Bomber Afterall. Damn. from The Coalition of the Swilling
Thanks to Tim Worstall for the heads up in the comments below that the guy shot in the Tube turns out not to have been a bomber. As I commented over there Oh gosh, Tim, the worst possible outcome, as... [Read More]

Tracked on Jul 23, 2005 6:32:53 PM

» the wrong man from rhetorically speaking
Robin Grant at perfect.co.uk pulls together various media reports that seem to agree the man shot at Stockwell tube station was not a bomber. [Read More]

Tracked on Jul 23, 2005 6:54:15 PM

» London Update: Man Killed Not Related To Bombers. from Bloggledygook
More on this with some good, level-headed reaction and comments from Tim Worstall. He, along with Nosemonkey were worried about this exact thing way before the rest of us. [Read More]

Tracked on Jul 23, 2005 9:30:04 PM

» London Update: Man Killed Not Related To Bombers. from Bloggledygook
More on this with some good, level-headed reaction and comments from Tim Worstall. He, along with Nosemonkey were worried about this exact thing way before the rest of us. [Read More]

Tracked on Jul 23, 2005 10:03:18 PM

» London Update: Man Killed Not Related To Bombers. from Bloggledygook
More on this with some good, level-headed reaction and comments from Tim Worstall. He, along with Nosemonkey were worried about this exact thing way before the rest of us. [Read More]

Tracked on Jul 23, 2005 10:15:51 PM


It certainly should worry you, and me, and everyone.
Nicely put.

Posted by: Colin Campbell | Jul 23, 2005 6:05:26 PM

"Executing someone for being Asian" is a little bit strong. That is precisely the sort of language which won't help community relations. The man was shot because he'd refused all orders to stop - he hurdled a ticket barrier and clambered on board a tube train. In other words he acted precisely as you would expect a suicide bomber to act when cornered. The case is tragic, but the sort of emotional grandstanding which you're indulging in doesn't help.

Posted by: David H | Jul 23, 2005 6:14:50 PM

Oh gosh, Tim, the worst possible outcome, as I feared too. But unless clearly shown otherwise I won't subscribe to the suggestion that "the police" as an entity are racist, which is the implication of yours and Nosemonkey's statements. This guy was shot because the police thought he had a bomb and was going to blow up. Under an incredibly stressful situation they had to make a snap judgement, and it appears to have been horribly wrong. I fear for, and honor, and respect, the next poor officer who is forced to make such a decision, and I truly pray that the firestorm of negative and scathing press and political posturing and outright whoring that will surely result from this awful, awful incident will not cause that next officer to hesitate too long when there really is a suicide bomber standing on the platform next to you over there or me here in New York.

Tim adds: No, no, nooooo!. I do not mean to imply that the police are racist. It’ll surprise a lot of people in the UK but it is one of the least racist countries I have ever been in. No, my point is that the shooting will increase the perception of racism by some communities and that this is something that further hatred and violence might (might!) feed off.

Posted by: Mr. Bingley | Jul 23, 2005 6:25:48 PM

I would *still* warn against speculation in advace of the evidence (yes yes I know). This guy wasn't shot by three random bobbies hanging around on the street, because British PCs don't have guns. He was shot because he was already being followed by Special Branch. So the advice to Asians is "consider whether there is any reason why people might reasonably consider you to be Al Qaeda; if there isn't, you can still run".

Posted by: dsquared | Jul 23, 2005 6:40:37 PM

It doesn't matter what the circumstances. This is a gift to the "All coppers are racist bastards" mindset. The only response that those who 1, don't have this mindset and 2, believe in the rule of law, can make is "Fucking hell. Thats torn it"

Posted by: Chris harper | Jul 23, 2005 6:41:06 PM

Most British people have never held a gun, either to practice with, ot to use in earnest! I have done both, and I was severely reprimanded by a Senior Policeman for not 'shooting to kill' when that was how I had been trained! I was being attacked by a knife-wielding assailant, and I fired in front of him to warn him off!
To take a life, as the officers did at Stockwell Station was what they had been trained to do, given the circumstances, and they should receive no diatribes or political pressure to do anything less in the future! These officers are on the front line, and they deserve our whole-hearted backing and support for their service and courage!

Posted by: Mike Cunningham | Jul 23, 2005 6:49:54 PM

dsquared - by the sounds of things, he came out of a building the police had under surveillance, but it wasn't necessarily him they had under surveillance. Still sounds to me like a case of mistaken identity.

Posted by: Nosemonkey | Jul 23, 2005 7:18:19 PM

And, to clarify, that's not to suggest for a moment that I don't entirely appreciate how the situation must have appeared to the police. Under the circumstances, as they have been reported, there was probably little else they could have done without taking too big a risk of an even greater loss of innocent life. A bloody difficult situation.

Posted by: Nosemonkey | Jul 23, 2005 7:22:59 PM

And the repercussions would be what if he'd HAD a bomb and only been politely asked to stop?? The monsters of 7/7 and 7/21 are watching this ever so carefully, seeing which way the the wind will take it. If police officers are allowed to remain armed and defend themselves and others, the dynamic for terrorists changes for the worse. And hooray!

If this one incident causes that development to crumble away, then it's back to business as usual for your local insurgency. And how horrible for us all.

Apologise profusely for the incident, make sure your officers continue to get the finest training available and defend your country and its people with ALL your assets.

Posted by: tree hugging sister | Jul 23, 2005 7:28:19 PM

Thanks to Tim and Nosemonkey for keeping us up to date.

I agree with what David H says above.

And, with Mr Bingley's comment saying pity the next poor officer who is forced to make such a decision ... let's hope this awful incident will not cause that next officer to hesitate too long when there really is a suicide bomber standing on the platform ...

And, let's hope everyone agrees with Mike Cunningham here who says: "These officers are on the front line, and they deserve our whole-hearted backing and support for their service and courage!"

Posted by: Ingrid | Jul 23, 2005 7:34:55 PM

I didn't think you meant to imply that, Tim, but there are too many folks who are all too willing to believe just such a thing already. One of the big downsides of blogging is that it's awfully hard for html to pick up the [wry sarcasm] tags...

Posted by: Mr. Bingley | Jul 23, 2005 8:59:04 PM

Thanks, Tim for putting into good words what I have been unable to articulate for two days now.

And very good comments, everyone.

Even though I live in America, my heart's in London. It is my daughter's home and has served and fed my imagination since I was a child. I have always found London to be the most open city in the world and the British to be among the most welcoming people.

Posted by: Daniel Berczik | Jul 23, 2005 9:48:28 PM

This seems to be a tragic incident/accident - if we are to apportion blame (just watch the media frenzy over the next few days) then I would lay a good portion of it at the feet of the suicidal bastards that started all this fear and angst in the first place. I think it's possible to chalk this up as now 57 dead due to 7/7...

Posted by: JonT | Jul 23, 2005 10:10:54 PM

I've figured out the bombers are playing Mornington Crescent, so I place the blame firmly with Humphrey Lyttelton. Now if I could just find my old rule book...

Tim adds: The first good joke I’ve seen about this. Yes, I think it’s a serious problem, and yes, that’s a good joke. Well done. Most Brit.

Posted by: Rub-a-Dub | Jul 23, 2005 10:24:42 PM

Nosemonkey is completely right; I had taken the Met's statement published in this morning's Guardian (that this was an "intelligence led" operation) at face value.

I am in two minds here. On the one hand, "shoot on suspicion of being a suicide bomber" seems like a sensible policy. On the other hand, I'm not happy if the standard being used is "walking out of a block of flats under observation, looking a bit foreign and wearing a coat". It looks like too low a bar, given the actual balance of risks at present.

I really, really, really think that there ought to be some public statement, preferably after a debate in the House of Commons, as to what the policy is, and what the standards are for intelligence led police shootings. At present, it appears that the policy was adopted through "unannounced policy guidance to armed officers". That is just unacceptable.

Posted by: dsquared | Jul 23, 2005 10:55:34 PM

After all the yap about "root causes" since 7/7, do you think anybody on the left might look for a "root cause" for what the police did?

Okay, I guess that wasn't a serious question.

But anyway... Jesus... this is a horrible thing. I don't know what the cops should have done, under the circumstances.

Posted by: Heh | Jul 23, 2005 11:08:44 PM

Brazilian, and according to his cousin (as reported by the BBC) "light skinned and spoke good English".
Not sure what the Muslim community have to worry about there, but whine and play the victim they will, as usual.

Posted by: Chickensroosting | Jul 24, 2005 12:55:26 AM

An important point: a man runs away after armed men chase him in the underground.
As far as I am aware, these policemen were armed and not in uniform. How was the man supposed to know they were police rather than muggers?
There seems to have been a distinct lack of presumption of innocence in this case. I am a massive supporter of the police and believe they have a very difficult job to do. At the same time, a family has lost a son/brother because of a possible mistake.
You've got to ask yourself this: if you were approached by some men in the underground system and they pointed a weapon at you, what would you do? Personally, I'd probably shit myself. After that, who knows!
Condolences to his brother and other family members. May his life be remembered well.

Posted by: Nik | Jul 24, 2005 2:30:57 AM

I think this could be a test for the Muslims who say they oppose terror and want to know how they can convince others that they mean it. Reaction 1: Whining about racist police targeting anyone with a dark skin (like the guy I just saw on Sky) or Reaction 2: Recognizing that the police have difficult choices to make and affirming that they will continue to cooperate and support their efforts.

Posted by: ilana | Jul 24, 2005 6:12:33 AM

Too many apologists for murder by the state. One expects Red Ken to think this is a good idea but, the rest of you?

NOW do you understand you are living in a police state?

Posted by: Lee | Jul 24, 2005 8:49:40 AM

Poor soul. I dare say that the police will have to look at ways for plain-clothes men to be able quickly to identify themselves unambiguously as policemen. Mind you, we don't yet know whether he didn't know that they were police, or knew it and had some non-terrorist reason to run. But I'll bet that much of the commentary that will follow will make no sense once you accept (if you do) the need for armed police on occasion. If armed, they will sometimes have to shoot (that's why you arm them). If to shoot, they must almost always shoot to kill(do you want a "shoot to scratch" policy?). Being human, they will sometimes make mistakes.

Posted by: dearieme | Jul 24, 2005 2:29:37 PM

Being human, they will sometimes make mistakes.

This is true, however one of the things they teach you at MBA school is that in anything from medical procedures to engineering to photo developing, companies that say "oh well, human beings will always make mistakes" have a much higher error rate than companies which make a bloody big fuss over every single mistake. To a very great extent, you get the error rate you are prepared to tolerate; the Met has had a rather good record of being very intolerant of mistakes made by armed officers and I don't see the fact of a few Islamic bombers as a reason to change that.

Posted by: dsquared | Jul 25, 2005 8:28:32 AM

I trained in a company that took errors very seriously (we had to: they were all too likely to kill people). But it was taken as a sign of posturing or irrationality if anyone said dim stuff like "this must never happen again". The point was to reduce error rates: accepting the inevitability of some error was necessary to justify the belt-and-braces approach to defence against the consequences of error. Experience of hazard studies, and scientific understanding of the causes and consequences, might be a more useful background than some MBA indoctrination.

Posted by: dearieme | Jul 25, 2005 10:21:20 AM


What a silly attitude to jump on people for making mistakes (which they will try to cover them up).

Much better to have systems in place to prevent mistakes from becoming a problem.

I cannot see where the police made a mistake, and I fully support the police for taking the RIGHT action.

Posted by: Rob Read | Jul 25, 2005 1:24:15 PM

Rule of law I'm afraid takes precedence over security fears and unless paliament has passed such laws then the senior officer authorising lethal use of firearms in any situation has to be clear that his actions and those who he orders to carry them out are going to be scrutinised by a civilised court of law. It would be wrong otherwise. How could it be any different to the cases where soldiers are accused of war crimes in a far off land where more than Londons white middle class commuters are at risk or dont those lives we are trying to protect in a country we are responsible for its security count?

Posted by: Tim Castle | Jul 26, 2005 1:14:53 PM