Death of Azelle Rodney
In July 2013 a judicial inquiry found that the Authorised Firearms Officer who fired the fatal shots had "no lawful justification" for opening fire. The case was referred to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to determine whether a prosecution should be launched. On 30 July 2014 the CPS announced that they had made the decision to charge the officer with murder.
Biography and background
Azelle Rodney was born on 22 April 1981 and brought up in west London. He had two brothers. Rodney was known for his sporting abilities at school, his football and athletic development came to an end after a hip injury and two subsequent operations when he was 16. He also had an interest in music, and developed this and attended the local gymnasium.
His mother stated after his death that her son barely knew the two men from whom he had accepted a lift, that he was not a gangster, and had only had a minor criminal record. A judicial report compiled for the public inquiry later described Azelle Rodney as a mid-level career criminal at the time of the shooting.
His girlfriend gave birth to their daughter after he was killed.
On the night of 30 April 2005, Rodney was driven by associates Wesley Lovell and Frank Graham in a hired silver Volkswagen Golf to rob a rival drugs gang. After leaving the barber shop, the three drove across north London. They were seemingly unaware that their car had been under surveillance for some time and that it was being followed by armed police in unmarked vehicles. It was later revealed at the trial of Lovell and Graham for drugs and firearms offences that they had been under police surveillance for two days and that the car had been tailed for several hours on 30 April.
According to information later released to Rodney's family by the Independent Police Complaints Commission, the armed police following the VW Golf moved at some point to "State Red", meaning that the car was to be intercepted as soon as possible. This occurred as the car was passing the Railway Tavern on Hale Lane in the London Borough of Barnet at 7:43 pm, the police using a manoeuvre known as a "hard stop". An unmarked police Audi swerved in front of the VW Golf, a Vauxhall Omega halted alongside, and a third vehicle impacted the rear of the VW.
Fourteen members of the Metropolitan Police's Specialist Firearms Command (CO19) emerged from the cars. Hatton rounds – a form of shotgun breaching round – were fired to puncture the VW Golf's tyres. During this, a CO19 officer later referred to by his call sign of E7, who had 20 years of firearms experience, leant across from the rear passenger seat of the Vauxhall Omega and fired eight rounds through the side of the VW Golf at Rodney, six of which hit him in the face, head, neck and chest.
An immediate police search of car found ammunition and three guns: a .45 Colt calibre pistol; a Baikal pistol; and a smaller gun described as looking like a key fob. A later search of Lovell's flat revealed that it had been used to produce a "significant quantity" of crack cocaine.
Before family liaison officers called on his family, Metropolitan Police officers had called at a neighbour's house to confirm Rodney's identity. That evening various news agencies reported incorrectly that Rodney had been holding a gun when he was shot, and later described him as a "drugs baron" and a crack dealer. The Times mentioned after Lovell and Graham's trial that he had been "visiting a drug factory that he ran". Police called at his mother's house to inform her of his death on the afternoon of 1 May 2005, almost 24 hours later.
The shooting was investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission which was then passed on to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). However, the CPS concluded in July 2006 that there was insufficient evidence to convict any individual involved for Rodney's death. John Yates, the Metropolitan Police's Deputy Assistant Commissioner at the time, said that "The situation facing our officer that evening clearly left him with no option than to take the course of action he did."
The officer responsible said: "Everything about his actions led me to believe that he was fully ready to fire with a fully automatic weapon." However, the Independent Police Complaints Commission confirmed that Rodney was not seen holding a gun when he was shot.
Lovell and Graham trial
Wesley Lovell and Frank Graham, who had been in the car with Rodney, were later sentenced to seven years and six years imprisonment respectively at Middlesex Guildhall Crown Court on 24 January 2006 for drugs and firearms offences. The court was told that three guns were found in the car and that Lovell's flat had been used to produce crack cocaine.
The trial also revealed that there was some dispute regarding the guns present in the VW Golf at the time of Rodney's death. In a statement, Scotland Yard said that the guns were "loaded and fully operational", however evidence given by the prosecution differed; it was stated that a Colt .45 pistol which Graham admitted to owning was on the back seat but had been deactivated and could not fire, while Lovell's pistol – which had been converted from a tear gas gun – was found inside a rucksack along with a loaded double-barrelled handgun.
In August 2007, coroner Andrew Walker, sitting at Hornsey North London, said that a full inquest into Rodney's death could not be held because of the large number of redactions in police officers' statements. The Rodney family's solicitor, Daniel Machover, said that the redactions were made under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 which covers information obtained from covert surveillance including telephone taps and bugs. He also said that he had written to the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice asking that the law be changed to allow the coroner to proceed with the inquest.
In May 2009, Rodney's mother, Susan Alexander, filed a case in the European Court of Human Rights, claiming that her human rights were breached by the failure to hold a "reasonably prompt" and public investigation into her son's death.
A public inquiry into Rodney's death was announced in March 2010 and began on 6 October 2010, chaired by a former high court judge, Sir Christopher Holland. The chair ruled that evidence previously kept secret can in fact be made public.
At the beginning of September 2012, the public inquiry into his death began, seven years after the incident. In July 2013 the judicial inquiry found that the Authorised Firearms Officer who fired the fatal shots had "no lawful justification" for opening fire. The case was referred to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to determine whether a prosecution should be launched. In July 2014, the Authorised Firearms Officer known as 'E7' who fired the fatal shots was charged with murder and is awaiting trial. In October 2014, 'E7' was named as Anthony Long.
- List of people killed by law enforcement officers in the United Kingdom
- Police use of firearms in the United Kingdom
- Dodd, Vikram (5 July 2013). "Azelle Rodney death: Met police had 'no lawful justification' for shooting Marksman could be prosecuted over death of unarmed man after official inquiry rules his evidence was 'not to be accepted'". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 5 July 2013.
- "Azelle Rodney death: 'No justification' for police shooting". BBC News. 5 July 2013. Retrieved 5 July 2013.
- BBC News (30 July 2014). "Azelle Rodney Inquiry: Murder Charge". BBC News.
- The Report of Sir Christopher Holland: The Azelle Rodney Inquiry, Section 2.1. HMSO 2013. ISBN 9780102986082 https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/246478/0552.pdf
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- Cookson, Richard; O'Neill, Sean (13 May 2009). "Mother of shot 'gangster' Azelle Rodney takes Government to court". The Times.
- Dodd, Vikram (6 October 2010). "Azelle Rodney evidence should not have been kept secret, says inquiry". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 August 2011.