As reported in The Guardian;
“The Scotland Yard marksman yesterday found by an official inquiry to have unlawfully killed a man he shot six times, was dubbed a “serial killer” by one of his own bosses, it has emerged.
The marksman, known as E7, shot dead Azelle Rodney, 24, in April 2005 without warning when he was an unarmed passenger in a car that police were following, believing its three occupants were planning a serious armed crime.
The official inquiry into the death said it did not accept the officer’s account of why he opened fire, killing Rodney with four bullets to his head. The dead man’s mother, Susan Alexander, said the report meant her son had been “executed” and summarily killed.
In 2006 E7 won compensation from Scotland Yard after he met then deputy assistant commissioner Sue Akers at a police leaving drinks.
As the pair were introduced Akers joked: “I’ve always wanted to meet the Met’s very own serial killer.”
The firearms officer threatened to sue for defamation. Scotland Yard settled out of court and he was paid £5,000 for what the force admitted were “inappropriate remarks”.
E7 had previously shot and killed two other people in the late 1980s and wounded two others while serving as a firearms officer. Rodney was the third person he had shot dead.
The report published yesterday by retired high court judge, Sir Christopher Holland, said E7 had “no lawful justification” for opening fire, paving the way for prosecutors to assess whether new evidence unearthed by the inquiry could support a murder prosecution.
Azelle Rodney was killed in Edgware, north London, in April 2005, after police forced a car he was travelling in to stop. Officers say they had intelligence that Rodney was part of a gang, possibly armed with automatic weapons, on its way to attack a Colombian drugs gang intending to rob them.
The CPS had previously decided E7 should not face criminal charges, following an investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission, which the Rodney family described as flawed. The IPCC failed to uncover crucial evidence discovered by the inquiry undermining E7’s account and leading to Holland’s devastating report.
The inquiry almost never happened. The authorities said crucial evidence concerning intelligence which led to the police suspecting Rodney and two others, could not be disclosed.
Rodney’s family fought a seven-year battle for a full and public inquiry into his death. The case in part prompted the first government attempt to introduce “secret courts”, during Labour’s term in power.
Conservative MP David Davis said: “There is also a real question to be raised over why the police sought to have parts of this inquiry held in secret . . . (It) is extremely difficult to judge whether these claims are to protect real intelligence secrets, or simply to cover up the embarrassment of the organisation concerned.”
Susan Alexander accepted her son was a suspected criminal but said that didn’t merit his “execution” in the street by a police officer: “I do not seek to justify what Azelle was doing on the day he died, but he was entitled to be apprehended and, if there was evidence, to be charged and brought before a court of law to face trial before a jury. The fact that he was strongly suspected in crime does not justify him or anyone else being summarily killed.”
Alexander said she was owed an apology from the police. But later assistant commissioner Mark Rowley, in charge of Met’s firearms unit called CO19, refused this request. He cited possible legal proceedings: “We are keen to be very, very careful not to prejudice future legal proceedings.”
Rowley denied firearms officers were “trigger happy” saying they open fire just once or twice out of the 4,000 times a year they are deployed. Rowley said the force accepted the inquiry’s findings and would not join in a judicial review of its conclusions, which is being considered by E7.
In a statement Met commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said the findings were significant and that the force regrets the death. He added: “I am anxious that this report does not undermine the confidence of officers to act decisively when making split-second decisions in the face of the most dangerous criminals, as recently seen in Woolwich.”
Holland, a retired high court judge, said he did not find that E7 was deliberately lying to him but found “E7’s accounts of what he saw are not to be accepted”.
E7 said that as the unmarked police car he was travelling in pulled alongside the vehicle in which Rodney was sitting in the rear seat. He claimed the suspect ducked down and came back up, leaving the marksman to fear he had a gun and was about to fire.
“He could not rationally have believed that,” the report found, finding it was not proportionate for the officer to “open fire with a lethal weapon”.
In fact E7 opened fire 0.06 seconds after pulling alongside the car Rodney was in, taking two seconds to fire eight shots.
A deactivated weapon found on the back seat where Rodney was sitting had not been picked up by him.
A pistol was recovered from the vehicle’s rear footwell, as was a gun disguised as a key fob.
Forensic and ballistic tests suggest five bullets hit Rodney as he was falling down, appearing to contradict the police marksman’s account that he continued to fire because the suspect remained upright and posed a threat.
E7’s first shot to hit Rodney struck his right arm. The chairman said, from this point, the “threat is plainly now neutralised and shooting should be at an end”.
Two tenths of a second later shots three and four were fired. Two tenths of a second after that shots five and six formed a “double tap” striking Rodney in the right ear. “These could only result in fatality and did so”, the report found. It added E7 “saw Azelle Rodney collapsing before he fired these shots and I do not accept his account that he fired these shots because he saw Rodney upright and apparently not affected by the earlier shots”.
The report said E7 paused for 0.72 seconds then fired “again well aimed double tap shots into the vertex of a dead or dying man. Obviously there is no justification”.
E7’s lawyers, have written to the inquiry saying the conclusions are irrational and warning they may seek a judicial review. Scott Ingram, solicitor for E7, said: “We are disappointed with the findings in the report in so far as they criticise E7’s actions.”
In an interview with the IPCC E7 refused to answer 149 questions, but denied at the inquiry that he believed he was above the law.
The inquiry heard that E7 had more than two decades of experience as a firearms expert, but he had been recommended for disciplinary action once for leaving his vehicle while on duty. He was also disciplined after getting into a fracas while off duty at a nightclub.
He retired from the force having served as a firearms instructor. He now works in private industry and receives a police pension.”