a cautionary tale

As Banfield mentioned earlier in the comments section, it seems as though the man killed yesterday by police in the London underground was, contrary to early reports, not connected in any way to the recent rash of bombings that have cost over 50 British citizens their lives. Here, in case you haven’t yet heard about the incident, is a firsthand account from a passenger that was on the train when the suspected terrorist was killed:

Mark Whitby said: “I was sitting on the train… I heard a load of noise, people saying, ‘Get out, get down’.

“I saw an Asian guy. He ran on to the train, he was hotly pursued by three plain clothes officers, one of them was wielding a black handgun.

“He half tripped… they pushed him to the floor and basically unloaded five shots into him,” he told BBC News 24.

According to other accounts, the man, who has since been identified as 27 year old, Jean Charles de Menezes, a Brazilian electrician who’d lived in Brixton, south London for the past three years, was wearing a bulky coat and looked nervous. As persuasive as that evidence might have been, however, it now seems as though he was not armed, and, for what good it does him, he has since been cleared of any wrongdoing… While he didn’t have a bomb, however, he had, in the defense of the police, apparently been followed from a home that was under observation. Here’ s part of the story from the BBC:

The man was under police observation because he had emerged from a house that was being watched following Thursday’s attacks, a Scotland Yard spokesman said.

He was followed by surveillance officers to Stockwell station, where his clothing and behaviour added to their suspicions, he added.

Police warned the man, who ran on to the station platform. Witnesses said the officers opened fire as he jumped on to a train.

I suppose it’s possible that this fellow intentionally tried to look like a suicide bomber, leading police into a situation where they felt as though they had no choice but to shoot him, hoping that the subsequent public fallout would impede their efforts to stop future attacks, but, admittedly, that’s quite a reach. (Whether it was done intentionally or not, however, I suspect, as a result it’s going to be much more difficult for British law enforcement officers to do their jobs, especially if those jobs require the profiling and searching of Muslim men.) More likely, however, is the possibility that everyone, the deceased included, just made a number of bad choices… He chose to wear the bulky jacket on a warm day, and to run from the cops. And, wanting to avert another bombing, they chose to shoot him five times in the head once the caught him, instead of interrogating him.

According to other reports, he was on his way to work.

Like the rest of you, I’m struggling with this. On one hand I want the safety that might come with warrantless searches, suspect profiling, the elimination of the presumption of innocence, “shoot to kill” orders, and all the rest of it, but, on the other, I don’t know that I’d want to live in a world where those things were the norm. Maybe it’s an antiquated notion given the current state of the world, but I want not to be murdered, and to have my civil rights. Hopefully there’s a way to see that happen.

If you’re at all interested in what’s going on in our own country with relation to civil rights, I’d suggest reading today’s post by Billom, and consider what we’re all giving up by accepting to live under the Patriot Act… And, if after reading that, you feel as though we’d be giving up too much by making the Patriot Act permanent (in its current form), check out this information from the ACLU about what you can do… Whatever you believe, I think you’ll agree, however, that we need to have a full and frank public discussion about these issues. We cannot continue to let the administration decide for us how much freedom we are willing to give up for the elusive promise of security.

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10 Comments

  1. Posted July 26, 2005 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

    Racial Profiling and the Brazilian “Terrorist”
    First the Racial Profiling:

    I mentioned the issue of racial profiling a couple of days ago. Today while eating lunch I was watching Fox News (not because I wanted to, but because we couldn’t change the channel) and again some simpleton was callin…

  2. Posted July 27, 2005 at 12:00 am | Permalink

    I met a guy named “Tony” at the garage sale who could have been Indian, Bangladeshi, Latino, or Italian, I couldn’t really tell.

    Turns out he was Native American.

  3. Posted July 27, 2005 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    As usual, Mark, you put it perfectly into words. From the bulky jacket to RUNNING from the police. If you’re innocent why do you run from the police? I’m not saying that shooting him five times in the head is the answer, but it will always appear that you’re guilty of something when you run from the police. I hate that this innocent man was shot, but I’d love to know why he ran…something we’ll never know. It’s just so hard to know what the answer is to racial profiling.

  4. Posted July 27, 2005 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    Unsubstantiated but -didn’t some source say it was potentially because the officers who approached him were plainclothes and armed, if people started chasing me with guns in London, or Detroit or Philly or wherever I might just run.

  5. Teddy Glass
    Posted July 27, 2005 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    It’s an odd thought. It hadn’t occurred to me that he might have died without knowing that they were cops.

    I wonder if they identified themselves.

  6. Posted July 29, 2005 at 3:35 am | Permalink

    Looks like Scotland Yard felt the need to embellish their report to justify their actions. I would not call a jean jacket bulky. I wonder what else they’re stretching…

  7. Tony Buttons
    Posted July 29, 2005 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    The last report I read also says that the man was shot SEVEN times in the head, not five. I’d say that’s excessive in the extreme.There must have been nothing left but a smoldering nub.

  8. john galt
    Posted July 29, 2005 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

    didn’t the guy just leave a suspected safe house under surveillance? I’ll just wait till all the facts are disclosed.

  9. Doug Skinner
    Posted July 29, 2005 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

    As I understand it, Menezes lived in the same building as one of the suspected bombers, but the police didn’t know there was another apartment there. The police were in plainclothes. And shooting a potential suicide bomber in the head is the standard procedure, since shooting him anywhere else would either trigger the explosives or cause him to trigger them.

    It’s very depressing; it also all makes sense, which doesn’t make it any less depressing.

    There is also some evidence that the 7/7 bombers didn’t realize they were part of a suicide attack — they had ID, for example, and showed other behavior which, according to the police, is not part of the usual pattern.

    Maybe more of the story will come out. (I’ve been following this closely, since I have friends in London who were near the 7/7 attack.)

  10. Dick Cheney's Extending Taint
    Posted August 17, 2005 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

    So where did this “jumping the turnstile wearing a puffy jacket” information come from?

    Here’s more from the Daily Telegraph:

    witness accounts and photographs leaked to ITV paint a very different picture, showing the young man in a light denim jacket, walking calmly through the station to the train and taking a seat on board.

    They also revealed Mr de Menezes was restrained by a police officer on the train before being shot eight times.

    Closed circuit television footage captured the electrician entering the station at a normal walking pace, even collecting a free newspaper, and descending to the platform on an escalator.

    Contrary to dramatic witness accounts on the day, Mr de Menezes is seen to board the train through the middle doors before pausing, looking left and right, then sitting down in either the second or third seat facing the platform.

    Moments later, police burst in and apparently restrained the Brazilian before pumping seven bullets into his head and one into his shoulder. Three more bullets missed him and the casings were left lying on the floor.

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