The London Shooting

Great dinner in London last night with Perry De Havilland of Samizdata; we met at one of Brian Linse’s parties and hit it off, and I was awake enough to make it into London and stay up through a meal.

He has a great historic anecdote about his house – which you should bug him to blog about, as I did – and today, has a good post up on the tragic shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes, the Brazilian man who ran from plainclothes police into the London subway.
I was going to post the same thing, but he summed it up perfectly…

Anyone running from armed cops who have challenged them first in London today should expect to get shot dead given the clear and present danger we are in… but that does not makes this any less of a horror. If Jean Charles de Menezes just reacted idiotically to the situation he found himself in, that does not mean we should feel distain for him.

I’m not sure when it became cool to run from cops – or to fight them once stopped.

I think it’s a generally bad idea, and right now, in major cities, I’d say that it risks being suicidal. I took the train from Guildford to London and back; I’ve got dark skin, and was wearing the fleece vest I wear all the time.

When I got to the station, I made a point of taking it off, even thought it was cool. The last thing I needed was to be challenged by an anxious cop, or a stressed commuter.

10 thoughts on “The London Shooting”

  1. Armed Liberal: “I’m not sure when it became cool to run from cops – or to fight them once stopped.”

    I doubt he was trying to be “cool”. It seems more likely that he fled from a situation that he was unable to process intelligently or handle, emotionally.

    One of the problems with the ideal of unflappability is that not everybody can live up to it. “Hit us as hard as you like, terrorists – England can take it (and take it, and take it).” Some people can’t take it. They get jumpy. If pressed, they get stupid.

    I don’t blame Jean Charles de Menezes. It’s not like he volunteered for any special job without being up to it. I certainly don’t blame the police. They did the best they could.

    The bottom line is that pressure causes enemy casualties, and the jihadis regard us as enemies and they are applying pressure and causing casualties.

  2. It’s true that with this man’s Brazilian background, it’s likely that where he comes from anyone who waves a gun – whether plainclothes or policeman – is probably a bad guy, and the best thing you can do is run.

    It’s also true that whether or not someone is innocent, if the police tell someone to stop and they instead leap over a turnstile and head into the tube, in the aftermath of a suicide bombing they have no choice but to shoot.

    The whole conversation about whether the police or to blame, or the Brazilian electrician is to blame, or whether they are both to blame, or whether one is more to blame than the other misses the point completely.

    Neither is to blame. The people who are to blame for the shooting are the terrorists. They violated sanctuary and committed murder while pretending to be nothing more than innocent commuters. They took advantage of the trust of London society. They took advantage of the tolerance of London society. They took advantage of the lack of hatred in London society. They took advantage of a culture which tries hard not to judge people if they don’t look like you do. They took all these things and they violated them, and they used them to commit mass murder.

    The terrorists are to blame. Not Tony Blair. Not the London police. Not a Brazilian man trying to earn a living. No one is to blame but they.

    You see the same thing happening in Iraq. The people of Iraq are used to the fact that anyone in a uniform is a bad guy. In old Iraq, in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, the rational thing to do when you see a police officer is get away. So, coming up to check point, there emotion betrays thier rationality and _they start speeding up_. Then the U.S. soldier steps in the way and raises a gun and they panic and some innocent person – and on a bad day some innocent person and his family – gets killed. Who is to blame?

    No one but the terrorists. No one but the people who dress in civilian clothing, take unmarked civilian vehicals and turn them into bombs to be used indiscrimenately against both coalition troops and the Iraqi people. If the terrorists wore uniforms and followed the laws of war and didn’t wave white flags before pulling out guns and attacking and didn’t set up mortars in school yards and mosques and hospitals and use ambulances to move troops to the front lines and violate all decency and all the other laws of combat, then innocent iraqis likely wouldn’t get shot for speeding through military checkpoints.

    Which is, by the way, a pretty stupid thing to do even when criminals haven’t been recently committing mass murder. Don’t for example try it on a military base in the U.S.

    But, all that being true, the primary responcibility for this man’s death is the terrorists. This, as in any other war.

  3. I think the police deserve credit for admitting their mistake so quickly. Given the difficulties this incident will cause, I can imagine there was enormous pressure to find *some* shred linking the victim to the crime, or more likely, “investigate” long enough for this to become yesterday’s news before revealing the victim’s lack of involvement.

  4. it’s always a tragedy if an innocent person is killed. Still, it’s worth keeping this in mind about the shooting in question (from the “Financial Times”: )

    According to police sources, the man who was shot dead had been observed leaving a house in London that was being watched in connection with bomb incidents earlier in the day. He was followed by a police surveillance team backed by armed officers, none of whom are thought to have been carrying photographs identifying the suspect.

  5. An expired student visa and the Western European police habit of not even aiming to anyone that is not clearly weaving a gun may have caused this.

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