Sunday, July 24, 2005

Bark: Menezes

As worst case scenarios go, the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes has got to be right up there with the very worst. The reason for my strong reaction to the news of the shooting on Thursday was my fear that the Police had shot the wrong man...

As horrible a tragedy as the shooting of Menezes is, you have to take a rational point of view.

Given the knowledge that we have suicide bombers in London both equipped and willing to cause carnage on the tubes and the streets, the Police on the front line are left with a no win situation. People may question the use of fatal force, but things boil down to a simple truth. You can't afford to fuck around when you're dealing with a potential suicide bomber. Menezes was desperately unlucky to have shared a house with the wrong people, but when you're confronted by a dozen or more armed police officers, the LAST thing you do is run into a tube station, jump the barrier and enter a train after you've been challenged to stop, just a day after four failed suicide bombing attempts. "Asking for trouble" would be the understatement of the century.

The policemen were confronted with a terrible choice - if he's carrying a bomb and detonates it, dozens of people could be killed. Do you shoot him and take one life to save others, or do you shoot to wound and risk them setting off the bomb? If you'll forgive the rather tasteless idiom, it's a no brainer from a security point of view. The policemen had to safeguard their own lives and those of the public - in this case it cost the life of an innocent man, but the police had acted on surveillance intelligence, and Menezes, unfortunately, played his own part in his death by failing to stop when challenged. I truly feel for the firearms officer involved who unleashed the fatal shots - he has to live with the reality of having killed an innocent man. His only consolation is that he did exactly the right thing - if Menezes had been carrying a bomb, his intervention would have saved many lives. Though that's probably going to be the coldest of comforts for him in the nights ahead...
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