Saturday, June 13, 2015

Trigger-happy British cop kills man who was doing nothing but sit in a car

The moment a police marksman shot a suspected armed robber eight times in 2.1 seconds was shown in court today after being caught on a video camera.

Azelle Rodney died after he was hit in the head and body by six bullets fired by firearms officer Anthony Long, who opened fire 0.06 seconds after pulling up alongside him, the Old Bailey heard.

The policeman claimed that Mr Rodney, 24, was reaching for a gun, but jurors were told that Long did not have time to see what the suspected robber was doing.

The shooting, which took place in Mill Hill, north London in April 2005, could be pieced together in detail because it was recorded for training purposes by an officer with a hand-held video camera in the police car behind the defendant's.

Footage shown to the jury today showed how four police cars pursued a Volkswagen Golf carrying Mr Rodney and two other men, then boxed it in using a 'hard stop' operation.

An unidentified man could be heard saying 'Sweet as, sweet as, sweet as' while Long fired eight times at close range through the Golf's open window, killing Mr Rodney.

Opening the case, prosecutor Max Hill QC said Mr Rodney was in the back of the Golf, with two men - Wesley Lovell and Frank Graham - in the front.

The Metropolitan Police had received information that the car contained firearms - possibly a machine gun - and the occupants were on their way to commit an armed robbery, he said.

The officer in charge gave the order for the firearms team to be dispatched to make a 'hard stop', forcing the Golf to a halt by boxing it in.

Long, 58, who was the front-seat passenger in the unmarked vehicle which came alongside the Golf, opened fire on Mr Rodney with his police-issue Heckler and Koch G36C Carbine.

Mr Hill told jurors: 'The majority of those shots caused fatal injuries to Azelle Rodney, culminating in the final two shots which were fired into the top of Azelle Rodney's head.

'The prosecution say that it was not necessary for Mr Long to open fire upon the Golf and Azelle Rodney. Therefore, we say, Mr Long was not acting lawfully when he opened fire.

'That being so, Mr Long's actions in deliberately killing Azelle Rodney, when it was not necessary to do so, make Mr Long guilty of murder.'

The court heard Long, whose call sign was E7, joined the force in 1975 and had 30 years' experience before the fatal shooting.

Mr Hill told the jury to bear in mind that being a police officer is an important - and at times dangerous - job which can also be stressful.

But he said that 'with onerous duties there come onerous responsibilities' and it was 'imperative' that specialist firearms officers act professionally and did not open fire in a public place except when absolutely necessary.

Mr Hill said: 'Whether through misjudgment, panic or some other reason, Mr Long opened fire and took another life when the circumstances at the moment he pulled the trigger did not justify him in so doing.

'Azelle Rodney and the other men in the Golf were embarked on criminal activity that day, and they deserved to be stopped, to be arrested, and to be dealt with for any crimes they had committed.

'They did not deserve to be shot and killed, and it was not necessary that this should happen to Azelle Rodney.'

The court heard that the evidence suggested the gap between the car pulling up and Long pulling the trigger of his semi-automatic carbine was 0.06 of a second.

Mr Hill told jurors: 'Mr Long opened fire extremely quickly as the Bravo car came to a halt. So quickly, we say, that he cannot have taken any time to observe anything happening inside the Golf before he opened fire.

'The time gap from the first shot to the eighth and final shot was 2.1 seconds. He fired the first six shots in just over 1.1 seconds. He then paused for just under three-quarters of a second before firing the seventh and eight shots. When firing, the gap between each pull on the trigger was about two-tenths of a second.'

The first two shots missed, with one lodging in the metalwork of the Golf and the other fragmenting as it hit the door frame. The third shot hit Mr Rodney's right upper arm and shoulder. Bullet four hit his back as the victim started to fall.

The next two shots entered his head around his right ear and the final two shots, fired after a pause, went through the top of Mr Rodney's head and travelled down towards the base of his skull, the jury was told.

As soon as they realised what had happened, firearms officers tried to give first aid to Mr Rodney, but it was too late.

The court heard that Long's gun was a short-barrelled semi-automatic rifle and therefore the trigger had to be pulled for each shot fired.

Members of Mr Rodney's family sat in court as the last moments of his life were played out in the police video on screens alongside a computer simulation.

After the shooting, police recovered three firearms from the Golf, but only one was loaded.

As well as a deactivated American Colt .45 pistol, inside a rucksack behind the front seat was an unloaded Russian Baikal pistol wrapped in a scarf and a small double-barrelled fob gun loaded with one live round and hidden in a sock.

Mr Hill told the court there were other items in the car - including a pair of handcuffs - which suggested that, as suspected, they were planning to rob a gang of Colombian drug dealers.

The prosecutor said: 'On speaking to supervising officers immediately after the incident, Mr Long said that he fired at the suspect, Azelle Rodney, believing that he was going for a gun.

'He also said that he had seen the rear seat passenger move in a manner that he believed placed the lives of himself and his colleagues in immediate danger. He claimed that he took the necessary action to protect himself and his colleagues.'

In a note made a few hours after the incident Long claimed 'as a result of intelligence and the behaviour and movements of the rear seat passenger, I believed that he was about to open fire with a fully automatic weapon'.

In a full written statement a few days later, the officer said: 'I saw the rear seat passenger apparently leaning forward in his seat holding the front passenger seat.

'Suddenly he ducked down and I was looking at the top of his head, he appeared to be reaching down onto the passenger seat or floor well.

'I feared that he was reaching for a weapon, I held my fire waiting to see what he would do next. Suddenly his head popped up and he appeared to look through the front windscreen, his shoulders were hunched.

'Everything about his actions and his body language led me to believe that he had picked up a firearm and was preparing to shoot a fully automatic firearm but I still couldn't see a weapon.

'I believed that I couldn't delay my decision to fire any longer. We had been told that he had access to fully automatic weapons and I felt that my colleagues were in imminent danger. 'I opened fire through the closed nearside window of the Golf and the window shattered. I fired several shots in quick succession. I could see no effect from my rounds on the suspect.

'The remaining glass in the window was obscuring my vision and I moved slightly and saw the suspect's head and shoulders upright in the vehicle. 'I fired several more shots and he appeared to pitch forward and out of my view across the rear of the seat. I immediately left the vehicle.'

But Mr Hill told jurors that there was not enough time for everything that Long claimed to have happened. 'We say that the movement of the vehicles during the hard stop, the restricted visibility and the rapid timing of events mean that Mr Long cannot have seen what he claimed,' he said.

'This must mean that he has tried to explain his decision to open fire, to justify his action after the event.

'Having analysed Mr Long's account given in justification for opening fire, we say that you can be sure that it does not represent the truth.

'That being so, you can be sure that Mr Long had no lawful justification for shooting Azelle Rodney. That means that Mr Long must be guilty of murder.'

Long denies murder. The trial continues.

Original report here

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