Azelle Rodney’s Family Call For Inquest And Public Inquiry

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Azelle Rodney family and supporters demonstrating outside Independent Police Complaints Commission offices last December
Azelle Rodney family and supporters demonstrating outside Independent Police Complaints Commission offices last December

‘We don’t want other families to go through this long and drawn out process with no possible outcome,’ Susan Alexander, the mother of Azelle Rodney, told News Line last Thursday.

She was speaking after receiving the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decision last Tuesday not to prosecute any of the police officers involved in the shooting dead of her 24-year-old son on April 30 2005.

He never saw his daughter who was born the day before his funeral.

Susan told News Line: ‘We are very disappointed with the decision so far.

‘I almost feel like I’m back to square one.

‘We’ve been through a lengthy process, not only with the IPCC (Independent Police Complaints Commission) but also with the CPS.

‘Only now, after five months and one meeting were we given a decision. That’s outrageous.

‘All they are saying is no officer will be charged or prosecuted over the death of my son.

‘I feel I have been left out of this whole process, really.

‘After a year and a half of liaising with the Met, IPCC and CPS, I feel as a family we’ve been cheated.

‘All I ever wanted was to know what happened and why they killed my son at point blank range.

‘The CPS explanation of their decision quotes officer “E7” stating: “I opened fire through the closed window of the Golf and the window shattered. I fired several shots in quick succession.”

‘This was the first time I’ve been given this information.

‘Even now, I still haven’t seen any of Azelle’s belongings.

‘So there is confusion over what the police are saying and what others said he was wearing. Nothing weighs up.

‘The CPS and IPCC say they emphasise their ethos of working with families.

‘My experience of the IPCC and CPS has told me this is not true, and I went to every single meeting, I never missed one.

‘We’re doing this because we don’t want other families to go through this long and drawn out process with no outcome.

‘Now I’m concentrating on refocusing, on pushing for the inquest and a public inquiry.

‘It is only right this officer and other officers be given a fair trial.

‘And the public deserve the right to know what goes on on the streets of London.’

In his letter dated 4th July 2006 to Susan Alexander explaining his decision not to prosecute, Mark Carroll, CPS Special Crime Division states: ‘Operation Tayport commenced on Tuesday 5 April 2005 when an application was made for surveillance of a group of, at that time, unknown men who intelligence indicated were going to be involved in the armed robbery of Class A drugs from another group of unknown men.’

Carroll says that on Thursday 28 April 2005 ‘the Serious Crime Directorate, Special Projects Team requested the assistance of a surveillance team and firearms team to assist them carry out a surveillance operation the following day.’

Authorisation was given for a joint team of ‘surveillance officers to be armed for self protection and for firearms officers to be armed in order to protect themselves and others and extend to the carriage of firearms in order to intercept/arrest/enter premises.’

CPS official Carroll adds: ‘The specialist firearms team leader was known for purposes of the statements as E1.

‘The rest of the team went from numbers E2 through to E14.

‘E1 notified his team that they would be involved in an operation on Friday 29 April.’

Nothing happened on Friday 29 April and the team was stood down at 8pm.

On Saturday 30 April, after a 7am and 8am briefings by the officer in charge of operations, Silver Commander, at Albany Street Police Station in Camden, the team was asked ‘to concentrate on the Fulham Palace Road area in order to locate Wesley Lovell and his associates’ and that ‘the intention of the operation being to stop and arrest the suspects’.

The CPS explanation then details a sighting of ‘three men at the Star Café in Greyhound Round, SW6, one of whom was believed to be Azelle’.

The PCS claims the men left the café at 3pm and Azelle was seen in the passenger seat of a Mercedes car ‘wearing a blue 3/4 length coat’.

Another vehicle, a silver Volkswagen Golf, drove off with the Mercedes.

A couple of stops were made at flats in the Fulham area and a man ‘appearing to be Azelle Rodney’ was reported carrying ‘a small blue rucksack’ going into one block of flats briefly and returning to the Mercedes car.

At a further stop at a petrol station in the Fulham Road, it was reported that ‘Rodney got out of the vehicle and took off the blue jacket he was wearing’.

The cars drove from Fulham to Harlesden and two of the men were seen in Harlesden High Street at 5.37pm.

The CPS says that further sightings were made over the course of the following hour in and around Harlesden High Street.

By this time the firearms team were standing by in a nearby car park.

The CPS adds: ‘At 7.07pm Azelle, Wesley Lovell and Frank Graham along with a fourth man were seen to leave “Faisals Barbers” and approach the VW Golf. The three named men got into the vehicle and drove off. The fourth man returned to the barbershop.’

Meanwhile, says the CPS, Silver Commander had told the firearms team leader, E1, that ‘he believed the men had obtained machine guns as it was their intention to steal drugs from others’.

At 6.00pm E1 ‘instructed his team that any interception would have to be dealt with robustly’.

Silver Commander and E1 had further discussions when they ‘also spoke about the potential tiredness of the men and their effectiveness as they had been on duty for a considerable period the day before and nearly 12 hours that particular day’.

But ‘E1 was satisfied that the firearms team were able to continue on duty’.

Silver Commander tells E1 that ‘one of the men was wearing a 3/4 length coat which had been noted as unusual for a relatively warm spring day’ and could be ‘a possible means of concealing a long barrelled weapon’.

This was after it was reported that Azelle had taken his blue jacket off.

No attempt was made to intercept in Harlesden and the cars were allowed to drive off towards Mill Hill before being intercepted at Hale Lane, when E1 ‘declared a State Red’.

The lead police vehicle ‘Alpha, initiated the stop by calling over the radio “attack, attack”.’

The VW was boxed in by four police vehicles.

In his account, officer E7 describes how after his vehicle came alongside the rear offside of the Golf and he observed the rear seat passenger looking round and ducking down.

E7 is quoted as claiming: ‘Everything about his actions and his body language led me to believe that he had picked up a firearm and was preparing to shoot a fully automatic firearm but I still couldn’t see a weapon (News Line emphasis).’

He adds: ‘We had been told that he had access to fully automatic weapons and I felt my colleagues were in immediate danger.

‘I opened fire through the closed offside rear window of the Golf and the window shattered. I fired several shots in quick succession.

‘I could see no effect from my rounds on the suspects.

‘The remaining glass in the window was obscuring my vision and I moved slightly and saw the suspect’s head and shoulders upright in the vehicle.

‘I fired several more shots and he appeared to pitch forward and out of my view across the rear seat.’

E7 says he left his vehicle and smashed the rear window of the Golf by which time officer E3 had opened the rear nearside door of the Golf and ‘pulled the suspect into a sitting position. I saw a lot of blood spray out of the suspect and noticed that he had serious head injuries.’

The CPS says E1 ‘has been a police officer for 30 years and a specialist firearms officer for 20 years’.

A witness, Leon Gittens, said he saw the Golf being overtaken by a black Audi out of which a number of armed police appeared and rushed towards the blocked-in car brandishing machine guns and Glock pistols and shouting ‘armed police, open, open get out’.

In his description of Azelle, Gittens is quoted as saying: ‘He was very agitated and moving up and down in his seat.’

PCS official Carroll sums up: ‘E7 deliberately fired eight bullets at Azelle and in doing so he intended, at the very least, to cause grievous bodily harm.

‘Azelle died as a result of those shots and unless his actions were lawful, this would amount to murder.’

However, Carroll maintains: ‘Self defence applies as a defence to any crime.

‘This is not something that the officer would have to prove; the burden would be on the prosecution to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the officer did not honestly and genuinely believe that he was facing an immediate lethal threat.’

Carroll makes the point: ‘E7 never claims to have seen a “man in the back holding up a gun” in any event.’

He adds that: ‘It is not unreasonable to accept that E7 thought that Azelle was reaching for weapon.’

He added that ‘the officer believed that everything about his action and his body language suggested he had picked up a firearm and was preparing to shoot a fully automatic firearm.

‘The only doubt that there must be is in the fact that the officer still could not see a weapon.’

Carroll adds further: ‘The six shots that were fired in quick succession did not seem to affect Azelle and therefore the officer moved to a slightly different position in the vehicle, smashed the glass that was obscuring his vision and fired two more shots.’

Carroll says one officer shot ‘a Hatten round’ into one tire and another round into another tire of the Golf to stop it moving.

Other armed officers shouted ‘show me your hands, show me, your hands’ at the driver and front seat passenger, dragged them out of the car and handcuffed them with plastic handcuffs.

No other police fired at a person.

None of the occupants fired a shot or brandished a weapon.

Carroll says that the team leader, E1 ‘later saw a firearm on the back seat of the car’.

The CPS official adds that ‘three firearms were found in the motor vehicle after the incident’.

No drugs were found in the car.

The Azelle Rodney family insisted on Tuesday: ‘Contrary to the statement issued by the Metropolitan Police today “three loaded and fully operational guns” were not recovered from the car.’

The two other occupants of the Golf, Wesley Lovell, 26, and Frank Graham, 23, were jailed for seven and six years respectively in January 2006 on possession of firearms offences, with Lovell convicted of having crack cocaine at his flat.