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Died July 22, 2005

Jean Charles de Menezes was a Brazilian national from the mining town of Gonzaga which lies in the valley of the Candy river in Minais Gerais state and believed to have been working in London as an electrician since 2002. It was Menezes' misfortune to be living at an address in Scotia Road, Tulse Hill in south London which had been identified by the Metropolitan Police as being linked with the terrorist cell responsible for the failed suicide bombings of Thursday 21st July 2005. On the very next day he left that address and caught a No.2 bus which took him to Stockwell underground station, completely unaware he was being followed by a police surveillance team.

At around 10 am that morning Menezes, who was initially described as being of "Asian appearance", arrived at Stockwell underground station where he was challenged by officers from SO19 (the Met's specialist firearm squad) whilst attempting to buy a ticket. At which point Menezes panicked, leapt over the ticket barrier and ran down the escalator towards the platform where there was a waiting train with its doors still open. Menseses is reported to have stumbled into one the carriages where he was cornered by three officers. One eye witness reported hearing shouts of "Get down. Get down. Get down." and that Menezes "looked like a cornered rabbit, a cornered fox - absolutely terrifed. He half tripped and was half pushed to the floor". Since the pursuing police officers feared that he was a suicide bomber with explosives concealed beneath his padded jacket which he was about to detonate, eight shots were fired into the back of his head.

Although the initial reports quoted several eyewitnesses as having seen wires protruding from underneath his jacket, subsequent enquiries revealed that Menezes had no explosive device on his person and had no connection with any terrorist organisation. Scotland Yard soon confirmed that he was unconnected to the recent bombings and had been shot in error. A formal statement was issued apologising for the incident; "For somebody to lose their life in such circumstances is a tragedy and one that the Metropolitan Police Service regrets". The shooting is now being investigated by officers from Scotland Yard's Directorate of Professional Standards, and will almost certainly be referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

These events have brought to light the fact that the Metropolitan Police currently have a 'shoot to kill' or 'shoot to protect' policy, as they prefer it to be known. Having taken advice from the Israeli security forces on how to deal with suspected suicide bombers, the Metropolitan Police have been advised, firstly not to shoot them in the body (for fear of triggering any explosive device) and secondly to shoot them at least five times in the head in order to avoid any possibility that the suspect may manually trigger the device.

Within the United Kingdom there has been surprisingly little criticism of the police action, the most serious adverse comments have simply been calls from individuals such as Dr Azzam Tamimi from the Muslim Association of Britain for the police to "review their procedures". However the Brazilian government has naturally expressed its shock at the killing of one of their citizens and have despatched their foreign minister, one Celso Amorim to London for talks with his British counterpart Jack Straw, and stated that it "looks forward to receiving the necessary explanation from the British authorities on the circumstances which led to this tragedy".

The family of Mr Menezes have similarly expressed their dismay at the shooting of Jean Charles and have been reported as considering the option of suing the Metropolitan Police. A cousin by the name of Alex Alves, gave an interview to O Globo television where he insisted that his kinsman was innocent of any wrongdoing and and that "He does not have a past that would make him run from police". He also confirmed that Menezes "spoke English very well, and had permission to study and work" in Britain. It seems however that Jean Charles de Menezes was only in possession of a student visa, which severely limits the hours the holder may work, and which had in any event expired. It therefore appears likely that Menezes was working illegally in the United Kingdom and may well have feared that he was about to be arrested and deported when he was challenged by police at Stockwell.

The moral of this story is simple; if challenged by a British policeman at a ticket barrier on the London Underground do not, in any circumstance, try and make a run for it. The Metropolitan Police have confirmed that the 'shoot to kill' policy remains in force.


The Sunday Telegraph referred to him as 'Jean Carlos Meneses' but all online sources give his name as Jean Charles de Menezes. He is variously described as being aged from 26 to 28.


SOURCES

  • The Sunday Telegraph of 22 July 2005
  • BBC news at http://news.bbc.co.uk/
    Shooting victim had expired visa, Monday, 25 July, 2005
    Police chief 'sorry' over death, Sunday, 24 July, 2005
    Shot man not connected to bombing, Saturday, 23 July, 2005,
  • Erro fatal from O Globo jornalnacional.globo.com/Jornalismo/ JN/0,,AA1001063-3586-332281,00.html
    Which is in Portugese, but the Google translation allows you to get the gist of it
  • Associated Press report from Sao Paulo, Brazil see for example
    http://24hour.startribune.com/24hour/world/story/2575420p-11009527c.html
  • See also http://finn.blogsome.com/2005/07/24/jean-charles-de-menezes-27/ from someone who knew Jean Charles de Menezes

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