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Inquest in Britain clears police in killing that triggered riots

Crime, Law and JusticeCrimeHomicideUnrest, Conflicts and WarBritainJustice System

LONDON – Fury from family and supporters greeted an inquest jury’s finding Wednesday that police acted lawfully when they shot Mark Duggan through the chest in 2011, a killing that sparked the worst outbreak of urban violence in Britain in a quarter of a century.

The 10-member jury decided by an 8-2 majority that Duggan, a suspected gang member, threw a gun into the grass several feet from the taxi in which he was riding and was therefore unarmed when police stopped the vehicle on Aug. 4, 2011, believing he had just taken delivery of a firearm.

However, they concluded by a 9-1 majority that the fatal shooting was lawful because a police marksman believed Duggan still had a gun in his hand and was about to fire.

Duggan’s death in Tottenham, a mixed-race area of north London, set off five days of rioting and looting that spread through London and other major cities. The chaos resulted in the deaths of at least five people and hundreds of millions in property damage and economic losses.

Wednesday’s verdicts enraged Duggan’s supporters inside and outside the courtroom, who hurled abuse at police and jurors.

Marcia Willis Stewart, a Duggan family lawyer, called the judgment “perverse” and said the family was in “a state of shock.”

“They can’t believe that this has been the outcome,” she said outside the Royal Courts of Justice. “No gun in his hand, and yet he was shot – murdered.”

Duggan’s brother, Shaun Hall, said, “We came for justice today.... We feel we’re leaving with a grave injustice.”

Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley’s attempt to read a statement was all-but drowned out as the hostile crowd yelled “Murderer! Executioner!” He expressed sympathy for the family.

“No officer sets out at the start of the day to run an operation that results in someone dying,” he said in trying to explain the “split-second decisions” that confront police when dealing with armed suspects.

“It is significant,” he said, “that a jury of Londoners, who have seen and heard all the evidence, have today concluded that not only was the operation to stop Mark Duggan in the taxi conducted in a way which minimized to the greatest extent possible recourse to lethal force, but that Mark Duggan had a gun, and also that our officer had an honest and reasonable belief that Mark Duggan still had the gun when he shot him.

 “We will continue working with local leaders to strengthen relationships. We know it will take time.”

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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