The public inquiry into the police shooting of Azelle Rodney heard from the officer who killed him on Tuesday of this week.
Officer E7, a member of the Metropolitan Police’s firearms team, fired eight shots, six of them hitting Azelle.
The police carried out a “hard stop” on the silver VW Golf car Azelle was travelling in north London on 30 April 2005. Police claim that he and the two men he was travelling with were on their way to rob Columbian drug dealers.
The inquiry heard how E7 joined the Met in 1975. He was in the now disbanded Special Patrol Group, forerunners of the Territorial Support Group.
He was asked about other incidents in which he has fired shots. He told the inquiry that he shot and killed two men in the 1980s. An inquest returned a lawful killing verdict and he received a commendation for his role in the operation. He also shot and injured two others.
The court also heard how in December 2000 E7 was arrested after getting into a fight outside a nightclub. He told the inquiry it was down to a “misunderstanding” with security.
The inquiry heard how E7, who retired in 2008, spent a significant part of his career devising and implementing training for firearms officers.
He described pulling up alongside Azelle’s car. He said, “I remember thinking to myself, ‘Have I got more time here?’”
He continued, “I felt if I waited to see a firearm that could well be too late. So I felt I had no choice. It was absolutely necessary to fire there and then to protect my colleagues.” He continued to give evidence as Socialist Worker went to press.
There have been serious questions raised throughout the inquiry about the way police carried out the operation. These include:
Why were Azelle and his companions not intercepted earlier? The court has seen footage of them hanging around that morning.
Why was the hard stop carried out in a busy area? Footage shows the police shooting take place just metres away from people drinking in a pub beer garden.
Did the police identify themselves when the stop took place and before E7 opened fire?
There has never been an inquest into Azelle’s death because police say it would pose a security risk if details were made public. They carried out covert surveillance in the run-up to the operation.
Azelle’s family and legal team have had to fight for over seven years for this public inquiry. But Azelle’s mother Suzanne has been angered by the lack of openness.
She had to go to the High Court to overturn a police effort to withhold helicopter surveillance footage from both Azelle’s family solicitors and the public. The police were overruled, but only partially.
The chairman of the inquiry maintained that the public cannot view the footage, or hear questions and answers that relate to some aspects of its content. Police denied the existence of the footage until just a few months before the start of the inquiry.
Alfie Meadows and Zac King trial suspended
The trial of student protester Alfie Meadows was suspended this week after his co-defendant Zac King had to be taken to hospital with a knee injury.
The trial was expected to resume on Wednesday when Michael Mansfield QC is set to cross examine the police silver commander, Michael Johnson.
Both Alfie and Zac deny charges of violent disorder on the 9 December 2010 student protest.