Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Forest Hill shooting: police story challenged

When a young man was shot and critically injured by police in Stanstead Road, SE23 in February some people believed that it was a simple story of a dangerous knife-wielding criminal being shot by police in self-defence after tasers failed to subdue him. But as I wrote at the time 'the facts of what happened have not yet been independently established. In many previous cases the first version of events reported in the press has turned out to be incomplete and misleading'. According to a report published last night by the Daily Mail, (3 April 2012), the facts may be very different from how they were first presented:

'Police marksmen were accused last night of Tasering a man as he lay grievously wounded in the street after they had shot him four times with live bullets. Witnesses claim they heard one of the 50,000 volt stun guns being discharged after George Asare, 25, collapsed in a pool of blood. One claimed officers repeatedly kicked the suspected knifeman on the ground as they surrounded him in a chaotic confrontation. Medical evidence has emerged that one of at least four Taser shots hit him in the groin, something his family believe was deliberate.

George Asare, shot by police in Forest Hill
(incidentally his father is a well-know TV sports presenter in Ghana)

Last night they demanded answers. His mother, Elizabeth Benin, said: ‘Why wasn’t there a stand-off? I want to know why the police did not try to talk to George. George is not a bad person, he is a good person but he was not well, I don’t understand why they had to shoot him. I just thank God that he was not killed.’

Asare is due to appear before magistrates in Bromley, Kent, today accused of attempting to cause grievous bodily harm to police and affray. He is being held in a secure psychiatric ward at the Bethlem Royal Hospital in Bromley, where he is recovering from his injuries.

The new claims dramatically contradict the original chain of events that emerged in the days after the shooting in Forest Hill, South-East London. It was originally believed that police shot Asare with live rounds only after several Tasers were discharged but failed to restrain him as he threatened them... Asare, a British-born Ghanaian university graduate, was left fighting for his life with wounds to the abdomen, leg, groin and hand in the early hours of February 19. Local officers attended the suburban street where he lives with his mother after a member of the public dialled 999 to report someone suspected of trying to break into a car...

 A family friend said: ‘George has suffered horrific injuries. The family believe it is the other way around, he was shot and then he was Tasered. Witnesses claim that when police came shots were fired almost immediately. As soon as George hit the ground they surrounded him and started to kick him and then they heard the distinctive pop-pop-pop noise of a Taser.’

A spokesman for the Independent Police Complaints Commission, which is investigating the shooting, confirmed that it is looking at the exact sequence of events and appealed for anyone with information to get in touch' [ or on freephone 0800 096 9077].

In my earlier post on the subject I also pointed out that the actions of the person shot as described 'would suggest not a career criminal but a vulnerable adult, for instance with mental health and/or drug and alcohol problems. If that were the case, questions might include whether the person was known to other agencies and whether they had received the support they needed'. The fact that Mr Asare is now in a psychiatric ward indicates that this was indeed the case.

In a week in which evidence has emerged of a Metropolitan Police officer calling a young man a foul racist word which anybody else would get arrested for using, and of one his colleagues kicking another man as he lay on the floor, we now have a suggestion that in the borough of Lewisham a badly injured man lying on the floor may have deliberately been given an electric shock in the groin.

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