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Tuesday, July 26, 2005 

Hindsight is Always 20/20 Vision

On July 22, a 27 year old Brazilian man living in London was shot 8 times by the London police.

This statement is enough to make many people rush to judgement and condemn the London police force as barbaric and trigger-happy for killing an innocent man but was that the case? Did Jean Charles de Menezes deserve to die like that? Of course not. But this wasn't an example of a young man taking a walk and several policemen deciding arbitrarily to stalk him and then shoot him because they had nothing better to do for the day. Other factors came into play that day which may not completely justify the shooting but may somewhat lessen the abject horrific reaction to his death.

As the facts emerge surrounding the incident, we are informed that he had been living in the same block of flats that was being monitored by police linked to the fail bombing attempts the day earlier. He was wearing an unseasonal overcoat which seemed more than just a bit odd on a hot summer's day in London. After he left his flat, he was trailed by police to the Stockewell tube station...a journey of about 15 minutes. If the police were, indeed, trigger-happy, they no doubt would have shot him as he left his flat but they didn't. They waited. Once inside the tube station, he started running and failed to heed officer's warnings to stop. Witnesses at the scene have said he jumped the ticket barriers, ran down the escalator and attempted to board the train with more than 20 officers in pursuit.

Consider this:
  1. You are a police officer trying to prevent further terrorist attacks in the wake of fatal attacks 2 weeks prior in the same location.
  2. You knew another attack was being planned. (the very next day another 4 bombers did attempt that very thing)
  3. You then saw an individual exhibiting overtly suspicious behaviour as mentioned above.
Would you be led to believe he was capable of committing a bombing attack? If yes, what would you do? Wait to see if he actually would blow up the train and then shoot? Shoot him in the leg while he used his hands to detonate the bombs strapped to him? Those were probably the questions that ran through each and every one of those police officers' minds but unlike you, they didn't have the luxury of 5 days in the comfort of your living room miles away to contemplate them.

Hindsight is always 20/20 vision. Armed with the information known after the fact, it's quite easy to judge someone's actions. Making split decisions are difficult even without having the added stress of a crisis situation. How many of us would be so calm and rational if we suddenly found an intruder in our house in a high-crime neighbourhood? Many will say that this isn't a fair comparison because police are trained to be rational and calm in stressful situations. While this is true, we also must ask ourselves if we really would have wanted them to hesitate if Mr. Menezes had been one of the 8 other bombers who did carry out their attacks? In a world where suicide bombers are becoming a daily occurrence, would you really want them to wait that one second which could be the difference between life or death for thousands of others?

As unfortunate and truly tragic Mr. Menezes' death was, I cannot say the London police force acted inhumanly. Mr. Menezes was partially responsible for his own fate. Had he stopped running and heeded the officers' instructions, this distressing event would have had a much better outcome.

Mmm, I'm not so sure. Basically about anything and the reason I say this is I've seen and heard many many many conflicting reports on this story. I notice your link to the BBC story is in the sentence "as the facts emerge...", personally I'm not sure they have and you'll notice that it says on your quoted story "witnesses said...". Now witnesses usually mean members of the public who let's be honest can get carried away with themselves and say anything. I remember hearing one guy being interviewed saying he saw the wires from his bomb belt!

Also, I just want to point out that each different person has a different idea of what a hot summers say entails. Today, 26th July, London is currently at 14oC. Athens in comparison is currently at 36oC. Now the reason for the comparison is that we're all used to different climates. If I was in London right, I'd be wearing a cost so maybe the fact that a Brazilian who's used to the sunny climate of Brazil was wearing a coat too is not so strange although this is not really important.

We've no idea what was going through this guys mind, he was being chased by plain clothed people, maybe he thought he was going to be mugged? I personally believe he ran to the train so he'd be around lots of people, let's face it, the people chasing him WERE going to catch up with him. There wasn't anywhere else he could escape too after boarding the train.

However the main theme of your thread was about hindsight and I agree totally 100% with the points you make. The Police made a grave error and killed a human being. The cop responsible has to live with this for the rest of his days and I feel sorry for him. The Police as you say are trying to prevent attacks and have one of the most difficult jobs right now. What I really don't understand is why wait till this guy was in the metro station before starting shouting instuctions to him. If he was a suicide bomber, he could have detinated there and then in the metro station. I'd have approached him on the street. But there again, I'm sure the Police thought there was some kind of method in their madness.

Anyway, let's keep watching this story and hopefully eventually we'll get to the truth.

DId police identify themselves as such?

"Many will say that this isn't a fair comparison because police are trained to be rational and calm in stressful situations."

Of course, to accept the notion that the police were irrational, one would have to accept the premise that similar actions taken in response to preceived dangers are generally irrational, inferior in moral comparison to existing viable alternatives, and should thus not be taken.

As I stated in my post above, the "information" recieved from witnesses isn't always accurate. The witness Christopher Wells was the one who said he jumped over the barrier. It now emerges he didn't jump the barrier, he went through with his weekly travelcard. Oh and it also emerges he also wasn't wearing a winter coat all.

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