Officer Could Face Gun Death Trial

A police marksman could face trial for gunning down a robbery suspect after a former judge found there was "no lawful justification" for killing the 24-year-old.

In a damning report published today, Sir Christopher Holland also said the officer, known only as E7, "could not rationally have believed" that Azelle Rodney had a gun when he opened fire.

Mr Rodney was killed in Edgware, north London, in 2005 after the car in which he was travelling with two other men was stopped by armed police.

They feared the trio were on their way to stage an armed heist on Colombian drug dealers and had an automatic weapon capable of firing 1,000 rounds per minute.

Mr Rodney was shot six times, once each in the arm and back, and, fatally, four times in the head.

Sir Christopher found: "There was no lawful justification for shooting Azelle Rodney so as to kill him. Granted that E7 had an honest belief that Azelle Rodney posed a threat to himself or to other officers, this threat was then not such as to make it reasonably necessary to shoot at him."

E7 has written to the inquiry to claim that the findings against him are "irrational", and could ask for a judicial review.

During the 11-week public inquiry it emerged that he had previously shot two men dead during an incident in the 1980s, and later received a commendation for his actions.

The Crown Prosecution Service decided in 2006 that no criminal charges could be brought in the Rodney case, but today a spokesman said the CPS is looking at it again.

He said: "The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has written to the Director of Public Prosecutions to ask that we review the case in light of new evidence provided to the public inquiry. This review will be completed as soon as practicable."

Mr Rodney could have survived the first two shots, to his arm and back, but not the remaining four to his head.

The executive summary of the report said: "The report asks whether E7 believed, for good reason, that Azelle Rodney presented a threat to his life or that of his colleagues such that it was proportionate to open fire on him with a lethal weapon. The answer is that he did not."

Sir Christopher found that even if E7 had believed that Mr Rodney had picked up an automatic weapon, shooting him dead would not have been justified.

"Would it have been proportionate to fire the shots that killed Azelle Rodney? The answer would be no. That is because, even if it was proportionate to open fire at all, there would have been no basis for firing the fatal ... shots."

E7 told the inquiry that he saw Mr Rodney start moving around, reaching down and then coming back up with his shoulders hunched.

But Sir Christopher's report dismissed this account which was also contradicted by eyewitnesses.

It said: "E7's accounts of what he saw are not to be accepted. Prior to firing he did not believe that the man who turned out to be Azelle Rodney had picked up a gun and was about to use it. Further, on the basis of what he was able to see, he could not rationally have believed that."

Three guns were found in the VW Golf - a Colt .45 calibre pistol, a Baikal pistol and a smaller gun that looked like a key fob.

Sir Christopher found that the operation that led to Mr Rodney's death was not run in a way that would minimise the threat to life.

He also concluded that the "hard stop" on the Golf, in which the car was rammed twice and the tyres riddled with bullets after it was hemmed it, "fell short of the standards set by the Metropolitan Police Service".

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said: "I have read the findings carefully and want to express my personal sympathy to Mr Rodney's family. The MPS deeply regrets his death, and I recognise how distressing the inquiry must have been for them."

He said the force accepts recommendations made by Sir Christopher about how officers are debriefed after firearms operations.

Mr Rodney's mother Susan Alexander said the report backed her view that her son was "executed", and demanded an apology from Scotland Yard and the IPCC.

"When I gave evidence to the inquiry on September 4, 2012, I said that it seemed to me that Azelle was executed. The chairman's report, after detailed study of the evidence, is that he is sure and satisfied he shares my view.

"I should not have to wait a moment longer for the police and IPCC to apologise unreservedly to me. I await an apology from the commissioner himself."

Assistant Comissioner Mark Rowley, who heads Specialist Operations, a command that includes firearms, said that the force could not offer Ms Alexander a public apology because of legal proceedings.

"It is understandable given the conclusions today why she should ask us for that, however we are keen to be very, very careful not to prejudice future legal proceedings," he said.

Mr Rowley rejected any assertion that firearms officers are "trigger happy".

"The judge has come to the conclusion that this case wasn't right, but to use 'trigger happy' in a broader sense is completely inappropriate."

He said firearms officers draw their weapons four or five times a day in the capital, but shots are only fired in one or two incidents per year.