MARGARET WARNER: On July 22, British police mistakenly shot and killed an innocent Brazilian man on London's subway system. Two days ago, London's Independent Television News said it had obtained documents from a confidential inquiry into what happened. They paint a picture sharply at odds with the original account. Here's the report filed Tuesday by ITN's Dan Rivers.
DAN RIVERS: The story starts at this block of flats in Tulse Hill, South London, where John Charles lived. We've seen key details about the undercover police deployment the day he was shot. We now know more about the operation on the morning of July 22. The police were here in Scotia Road, South London, monitoring this block of flats. Inside they thought were at least one of the terror suspects who'd attempted to blow out the tube less than 24 hours before. We know there was a covert surveillance team in the area and we also know there was a firearms unit stationed just around the corner on standby. Everyone was highly trained but everyone must have been very apprehensive. Among the documents we've been given is a witness statement from a senior firearms officer who was there. He describes briefing the other men.
SPOKESMAN: "I also said that the team may be required to use unusual tactics today because of the environment they were in…DI asked me to clarify what I meant by this. I then said 'if we were deployed to intercept a subject and there was an opportunity to challenge but the subject was noncompliant, a critical shot may be taken.'"
DAN RIVERS: The police were watching the building after finding a gym membership card at the scene of one of the failed attacks. It was registered to Scotia Road, the firearms officer said the address should have been tightly controlled.
SPOKESMAN: "The current strategy around the address was as follows: No subject coming out of the address would be allowed to run, and that an interception would take place as soon as possible away from the address trying not to compromise it."
DAN RIVERS: At 9:30 John Charles left this block of flats walking to the bus stop on a journey that would ultimately end in his death. But at that precise moment there appears to have been a catastrophic failure of the surveillance operation; none of the police officers were sure he was one of the wanted men. But they decided to follow him anyway.
Among our documents is a witness statement from the surveillance officer who was watching the door. He says he was unable to positively identify John Charles.
SPOKESMAN: "As he walked out of my line of vision I checked the photographs and transmitted that it would be worth somebody else having a look. I should point out that as I observed this male exited the block I was in the process of relieving myself. At this time I was not able to transmit my observations and switch on the video camera at the same time. There is therefore no video footage of this male."
DAN RIVERS: It only took him a few minutes to get to this bus stop just around the corner, but in that time the documents we've seen suggest the police were now convinced that he was one of the two terrorist suspects. We've been given a briefing document describing the surveillance separation. It says:
SPOKESMAN: "De Menezes was observed walking to a bus stop and then boarded a bus, traveling to Stockwell Tube Station. During the course of this, his description and demeanor was assessed and it was the belief that he matched the identity of one of the suspected wanted for terrorist offense. The information was passed through the Operation Centre and Gold Command made a decision and gave appropriate instructions that De Menezes was to be prevented from entering the Tube station. At this state the operation moved to code 'Red' and tactical responsibility was handed over to CO19."
DAN RIVERS: This was a crucial turning point in the operation, the firearms street officers have been given permission to shoot at John Charles De Menezes. It was just a question of catching up with him. But as they raced into the tube John Charles himself was completely unaware he was being followed. The documents we've seen prove he made his way down to the train acting normally. The briefing document goes on -
SPOKESMAN: "CCTV has captured De Menezes entering the station at normal walking pace, collecting a free Metro newspaper from a paper rack and slowly descend on the elevator. At some point near the bottom, he is seen to run across the concourse, and enter the carriage before sitting in an available seat. Almost simultaneously, armed officers were provided with positive identification."
DAN RIVERS: Witness statements we've seen give a clear picture of what happened inside the underground train. John Charles boarded the train through the middle doors; he then paused, looked left, then right; then went to sit down in either the second or third seat facing the platform. An eyewitness sitting opposite describes John Charles as sitting down when he was shot. But for the first time it's emerged a member of the surveillance team had followed John Charles down the tube; he tells it differently.
SPOKESMAN: "I heard shouting which included the word 'police' and turned to face the male in the denim jacket. He immediately stood up and advanced towards me and the SO19 officers. I grabbed the male in the denim jacket by wrapping both my arms around his torso, pinning his arms to his side. I then pushed him back onto the seat where he had been previously sitting. I then heard a gunshot very close to my left ear and was dragged away onto the floor of the carriage."
DAN RIVERS: The forensic police photos of the scene are shocking. Many are too graphic to show but this one does confirm John Charles was not wearing a padded jacket as had been reported by witnesses at the time. There are also blood stains on the third seat from the doors, apparently confirming reports John Charles was sitting down when shot. We know from the documents, one officer fired seven bullets; this photo shows one of the spent cartridges, another policeman fired three times. The postmortem shows John Charles was hit seven times in the head and once in the shoulder.
MARGARET WARNER: Since that report aired, controversy has grown over the discrepancies between the leaked report -- investigative report -- and earlier accounts of the shooting. ITN's Victoria McDonald looks at that.
VICTORIA McDONALD: Stockwell station just hours after the shooting of John Charles De Menezes; it was never official but somehow the waiting media came to report that he'd been wearing a thick padded jacket. That he had jumped the ticket barrier; Scotland Yard neither denied nor confirmed this. Indeed today the metropolitan police commissioner Sir Ian Blair has told a newspaper "The number of features about heavyweight coats or hopping over barriers have never been said or confirmed by the MPS." But the fact is the police let this information stay in the public arena for days. Now the leaked statements to the independent police complaint commission show that Dr. Kenneth Shoreck, the pathologist called to examine the body wrote, "He was followed into Stockwell tube station where he vaulted over the ticket barrier. He ran downstairs and onto a tube train where it appears that he stumbled. The officers then immobilized him and a number of shots were fired."
VICTORIA McDONALD: That report was completed five days after the shooting yet nobody bothered to correct the Dr. Shoreck. The leaked statements to the independent police complaint commission also say that Mr. Menezes had time to sit down, one officer says he was actually pinned down to the seat. Two eye witnesses back this up. And the pathology report also suggests that he was killed sitting down.
SPOKESMAN: "Three seats away from the double doors on the opposite side to the one that was open was a seat that was heavily saturated with blood."
VICTORIA McDONALD: As for the Brazilian running through the ticket hall, the leaked statement from a police officer ID's as Hotel 3 said that, as the male in the denim jacket had entered the tube station he had transmitted a request for directions as to whether or not this male should be detained. "I received a reply instructing me to wait," he said. This suggests an opportunity to stop Mr. Menezes; he wasn't running nor jumping over barriers. All this adds to the pressure on the metropolitan police commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, the man ultimately responsible of the shoot to kill to protect policy. Within hours after the shooting he gave a press conference.
SIR IAN BLAIR: The information I have available is that the shooting is directly linked to the ongoing and expanding anti-terrorist operation.
VICTORIA McDONALD: The day after Scotland Yard issued a statement stating that they were now satisfied that Mr. Menezes wasn't connected with the previous days' attempted bus and tube bombings. They said though that his clothing and behavior added to their suspicions. In the week following and even today in his newspaper interview, Sir Ian has been at odds to emphasize the context of the shooting rather than the specifics.
SIR IAN BLAIR: As these officers were going down that tube station they thought they were in contact with a suicide bomber.
VICTORIA McDONALD: The weekend of the shooting Mr. Menezes' cousins met outside Stockwell Tube Station. It took several more days for the police to admit to the family that he wasn't wearing a padded jacket and that he hadn't jumped the ticket barrier; it was then left to the family to tell the media, correcting the previous reports. Scotland Yard remained silent.
MARGARET WARNER: And for more on this story and the reaction to it we turn to Mary Jordan, co-bureau chief for the Washington Post in London. Mary, thanks for joining us.
First of all --
MARY JORDAN: Thank you.
MARGARET WARNER: Where did the erroneous account that became the commonly accepted account come from?
MARY JORDAN: That's a big question tonight, because it was everywhere. It's unclear when they're saying that witnesses saw him jump the turnstile, were they part of the surveillance team? Was it information that the police were telling the media at the time? It's unclear but for sure everyone can remember that that's what people knew, and when the statement came out from Scotland Yard that the person who had been killed was looking and acting suspiciously, that really made people think that the police had reason to shoot.
MARGARET WARNER: Now, is the general reaction that this leaked report is definitely true -- that is, that access to both the security cameras, closed circuit and interviewed extensively the officers involved?
MARY JORDAN: Well, as everyone's pointed out, it's been out there for two days, there's not a person in England who doesn't know about it, hasn't read about it seen it on TV or heard about it on the radio. And Scotland Yard has not denied it.
MARGARET WARNER: Does the leaked report -- these leaked statements and documents -- come to any conclusion about the underlying travesty that occurred here? In other words, what really went wrong -- was this the shoot-to-kill policy gone awry? Was there bad communication? Is there any conclusion?
MARY JORDAN: I think the early conclusions, and it is still early, because part of the report that's come out is that there were several teams in place. There were marksmen there who were in communication with the undercover policemen. And between these two groups, there was talk about even a third group being there that signals got dropped. At one point they said there was a woman who was in charge of the marksmen and she said, do not let him get on the subway. And then another point she said, but make sure you get him alive. These are all kinds of things that have been coming out today, but it's clear that there was massive confusion and sadly, you know, what many people have said is if the moment he got out of his apartment, which was only being watched because he happened to have the bad luck of living in an apartment block where one of the suspected bombers lived, if they had been able to take a picture of him and then they would have been able to compare it to the actual bomber who has since been apprehended, but the reason they don't have that picture is that the man that was supposed to be in charge of the camera had to go to the bathroom.
MARGARET WARNER: You said that the police have not disputed this report. Have they said or does the report indicate when they first knew that this other account of him in the bulky coat, jumping the turnstile, et cetera, et cetera, was wrong? How long had the police known this?
MARY JORDAN: Well, as the lawyers for the Brazilian man -- he was a 27-year-old electrician -- as they have pointed out, it's hard to believe that all those people were on the scene and they didn't see it right away. I mean, after the shooting, presumably there were a dozen officers who saw what was going on and knew that he was wearing a denim jacket, he wasn't wearing some kind of a bulky jacket that could have concealed the bomb.
MARGARET WARNER: Has the police or Sir Ian Blair said why they didn't come forward and quickly correct the public account?
MARY JORDAN: No. And I think -- I think people understand -- you know this was one day after four un-detonated bombs were found on the subway. You know -- tensions were high; the police were, you know, were under enormous pressure to make quick decisions, so initially people understood that mistakes could be made. Plus the shoot-to-kill policy was the first time that anyone had ever heard about it. We didn't even know that this was happening. And so in the beginning I think people gave the police the benefit of the doubt. But now they wonder, okay, almost a month has passed -- you knew this wasn't as you said it happened. And why didn't you correct it?
MARGARET WARNER: What has been -- you said this is a huge story in England -- what has been the reaction from the public and from the political class?
MARY JORDAN: I think people are still, you know -- the police have done a pretty good job I would say most people think. They have been working around the clock. If you go to any subway station, you see the police there. I was at the Tower of London the other day; I think there were at least ten officers, they're working around the clock, they're working overtime, you see them everywhere. They have gotten in custody the four bombers that were involved in the 21st failed bombing. So there's a lot of people that think they have done a good job. I think this is - this last few days have been really bad for Scotland Yard because they have been upset. They feel like they haven't been forthcoming -- if in fact, as the lawyers for the family say they have out right lied.
MARGARET WARNER: So when is this going to be, I don't know, settled maybe the wrong word but when is this report going to be complete? When is Scotland Yard going to come forward and tell the public what happened, both in terms of the incident itself and then in terms of this misleading and self-serving report?
MARY JORDAN: Well, I think the first we're going to hear is from the watchdog group, the police watchdog group, which is called the Independent Police Complaints Commission, it was set up only last year because other people had died in the custody, particularly minorities had died in the custody of police.
And frankly there was some lack of public confidence in the police. So there's a new independent agency that promised today that there would be swift movement on this investigation. Actually it was quite big news here today when they said that Scotland Yard had resisted them getting on the scene as quick as possible. So there was a delay in when people could come in and actually see the blood in the subway and talk to the officers.
Now Ian Blair and Scotland Yard have said that at the moment, it wasn't any intentional or evil delay. It was simply that we thought he was a suicide bomber, we felt we had just shot him and we wanted our manpower to be shifted to any other potential bombers.
MARGARET WARNER: And finally, briefly, is there any serious rethinking of the shoot-to-kill policy?
MARY JORDAN: Well, parliament, members of parliament and parliament is not in session right now but many members have been calling in and talking on the radio today saying, definitely that is going to be one that they're going to be looking at when they come back in the fall.
MARGARET WARNER: And you were so brief there I ask can you one more question. Late today we saw on the wires a report from Sky-TV that someone on the secretarial staff of this Independent Police Complaints Commission had been suspended over the leak. Can you confirm that?
MARY JORDAN: Yes. I mean, the leak has caused enormous damage to Scotland Yard, no doubt about it, Ian Blair is furious about it. He said that when the whole report comes out that's when we should be talking about it and the English really don't like leaks. So apparently we've lost someone who handed over all the materials to the TV station.
MARGARET WARNER: Mary Jordan of the Washington Post, thanks so much.
MARY JORDAN: Thank you.