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Watchdog to probe U.K. top cop over shooting

An independent watchdog said  Monday it would probe claims that London’s police chief lied to the public after the fatal shooting of an innocent Brazilian man suspected of being a would-be suicide bomber.
/ Source: Reuters

An independent watchdog said on Monday it would investigate claims that London’s police chief lied to the public after the fatal shooting of an innocent Brazilian man suspected of being a would-be suicide bomber.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Ian Blair, who is Britain’s most senior officer, is to be investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) after an official complaint from the family of Jean Charles de Menezes.

De Menezes, a 27-year-old electrician, was shot in the head seven times as he boarded a train at Stockwell underground station in south London on July 22.

Officers had been on high alert after four bombers failed in their attempts to attack three underground trains and a bus in London just the day before the shooting. Two weeks earlier, suicide bombers had killed 52 people in an identical plot in the British capital.

Initial reports from police and witnesses said de Menezes had been wearing a bulky jacket, had vaulted a ticket barrier and ran when challenged by officers.

Did police chief lie?
But a leaked initial IPCC report cast doubt on these claims and de Menezes’ family claimed Blair, who at first praised the actions of his officers, had lied when he spoke to the media in the immediate aftermath of the incident.

Blair, who later apologized and said he was unaware of the police’s mistake until 24 hours after the shooting, had told reporters the incident was linked to the failed July 21 attacks and that de Menezes had refused to obey police instructions.

“We will treat this investigation in the same way as any other,” said IPCC chairman Nick Hardwick.

“We have not made any assumptions and for the sake of Jean Charles’ family, officers within the MPS (Metropolitan Police Service) and the public at large, will try to establish the truth in an impartial, proportionate and timely way.”

The IPCC, which investigates all fatal police shootings, could ultimately force Blair to face a disciplinary hearing if it finds him guilty of misconduct.

Blair, who was widely hailed for his force’s handling of the July 7 bombings inquiry, has been unable to shake off pressure about his actions since the Brazilian’s shooting.

In September, letters were published which showed he had refused the IPCC access to the crime scene because he said the ongoing counter-terrorism inquiry took precedent.

The IPCC is already probing the circumstances surrounding de Menezes’ death and said it expected that investigation to be completed by the end of December.