"He half tripped... they pushed him to the floor and basically unloaded five shots into him." ⇒

   24 July 2005, early morning

If the police can't execute people in the streets the terrorists have won.

This is a post from my link log: If you click the title of this post you will be taken the web page I am discussing.



  1. The police have a shoot to kill policy for suicide bomber suspects since they don’t want them to detonate their bombs. I can see why that makes sense. However, in this instance it sounds like the police used poor judgement, and the result is a dead innocent man, a real tragedy for both the man and the officers involved. How do you live knowing you killed some innocent man? It must be hard to make your peace with that sort of thing.

  2. It also sounds like the innocent man used poor judgment. Check the bottom of this BBC article for a summary.

  3. Yeah, he tried to get a free ride into the subway, clearly he deserves to die. What qualifies you for being a “suspected suicide bomber?”

    I was backpacking with my friend in across Europe in May. If I was running to catch my train again with a backpack on, would I have to worry about being shot?

  4. First, I didn’t say he deserved to die, I said he used poor judgment. That judgment contributed to his death.

    When twenty armed police officers order a person to stop days after 4 bombings on the transit system, the only thing to do is stop running for the train.

  5. The police officers were in plain clothes. I wonder if he understood that they were cops, and not just hooligans.

  6. Even plainclothes officers will identify themselves. “Police” in Portuguese is extremely similar too, “polícias.”

  7. It would be fair to assume that the police would identify themselves, but that hasn’t been revealed (yet). But by all accounts he was pinned and shot 5 times (kill shots as per the guidelines regarding ‘suspected suicide bombers’)

    That he exercised poor judgement does not absolve the police of the killing. I have no doubt that they had to make a thousand split second decisions that led to that point, but again, that action was taken and there needs to be accountability and responsibility.

    Innocent people are not supposed to be gunned down by the people sworn to protect us.

  8. The thing I don’t understand here is why they shot him if he was already pinned down. That seems totally unnecessary, even supposing that he actually was a suicide bomber.

    Suppose for a minute that the guy actually had a bomb. If had already activated it, then shooting him wouldn’t make a difference anyway. If he hadn’t activated it already, and they had pinned him down, then shooting him is pointless because then they can’t get any information from him.

    Sounds to me like some angry police officers made a bad decision in the heat of the moment, and an innocent but stupid man paid with his life.

  9. I like this quote from his sister:

    “How could they have confused and killed a light-skinned person who had no resemblance at all to an Asian?”

    Yes, we need more racial profiling. They shot the wrong sibling.

    But this is the real kicker from—of all people—Pervez Musharraf:

    President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan also noted that some Islamic groups banned in Pakistan “operate with impunity” in Britain.

    Pervez, valid point. But in Britain that would be racist.

  10. Actually Matt, it does make sense. If he was a suicide bomber with a detonator in his hand, or someplace they couldn’t immediately find it, even pinned down he could potentially kill all of them in a flash. The amazing thing is that while I am normally the first person to scream excessive force, I think people need to calm down a lot more and let the authorities (not necessarily police) figure out what happened. Because after 8 attempted or successful bombings, yes, I can understand why people would be really nervous about a man who possibly jumped a turnstile and ran from police who were ordering him to stop (assuming all of that is what occurred). Everyone needs to keep their shit together these days, you know? If you are running around in the mass transit system, jumping anything, and someone tells you to stop? Dude, stop. Because if I were a cop and I were choosing between you blowing up myself, my coworkers, and potentially other civilians, and shooting you in the head – well, you would have a bullet in your head.

    Maybe those aren’t the facts of the case and maybe we will find that out and procedures will have to change, and god I can’t imagine what it would be like to make a simple mistake and end up dead, or to be a family member of someone who died without doing anything to merit it – but I think that for once in my life I am siding with the police. For now. Until we know more.

  11. I feel sorry for everyone involved in this awful situation.

    The cops were following someone suspected in being involved in earlier bombings (based on CCTV footage, apparently). (Also, not that police in Britain normally don’t carry guns as they are banned there). He goes into a subway, jumps the turnstile and then runs from them. What are they going to do? If it really was a bomber, the cops would be heroes for shooting him – on the day of the shooting, no one thought they did anything wrong. Unfortunately, when they opened the box, “Schrödinger’s cat” didn’t turn out to be what they expected and no the cops are being vilified.

    On the hand, I feel really, really sorry for the guy’s family, ‘cause he got shot for basically being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    I guess sometimes the World really is a cruel place. :-(

  12. The thing that worries me more than the police shooting him five times in the head is how he managed to get into the subway in the first place. If there was twenty plainclothes officers chasing him, why wasn’t one of them blocking the entrance?

    I also noticed that none of the eyewitness reports had the undercover officers identifying themselves as police. A lot of them said the guy was Asian and was wearing a belt with dangling wires, so obviously they could have simply not heard them. If some random guys on the street pulled out some glocks and started to chase me, of course I’m going to run for my life.

  13. I don’t see this as anything but a remote and tragic accident. It seems like everything that could go wrong did go wrong.

    He was brown, wearing a ‘heavy jacket’ and came out of a house under surveillance. He ran into the subway when the cops tried to “approach” him. Considering the context (London, a week removed from the subway bombings), is it hard to figure out why the police were shooting to kill?

    And from the other side you have an innocent brazilian guy who decided not to pay the fare that day, getting killed. No doubt he thought he was getting in trouble for jumping the gates.

    Who should we hold to account? The police reaction is perfectly understandable considering the man’s actions. It’s tragic, but it’s like everything that could go wrong did go wrong.

  14. Why are shoot-to-kill policies stupid?

  15. I was going to post that link. Damn you, Ram, posting good links on your own website yourself!

  16. Schneier’s articles are always a mixed bag in terms of quality and insightfulness.

    This policy is based on the extremely short-sighted assumption that a terrorist needs to push buttons to make a bomb explode.

    They adopted the policy from Israel…which has more experience with suicide bombers than any other country in the World. Schneier would be better off to provide evidence/references to back up his theories rather than to make such assumptions himself.

    These were NON uniformed officers, and the suspect was brasilian (and probably didn’t speak very good english).

    Why did he run? What would YOU do if three individuals accosted you, speaking a language which you were unfamiliar with, drawing weapons? You would RUN LIKE HELL!

    The guy who was shot lived in London for 3-4 years (according to the various news articles from CNN, BBC, etc.). I think it’s safe to assume that he knows a little bit of the English language.

    Also, the subway stations have lots of uniformed police in them now. So if you were running like hell because you were scared from being accosted, wouldn’t you run towards the uniformed police instead of away from them and onto a train?

    I think Schneier gets a thumbs down on this one.

  17. Let’s build a wall around England.

    That’s not to be facetious…

    “But Israeli officials Tuesday repeatedly cited the barrier, which the world court at The Hague, Netherlands, recently ruled to be illegal, as the No. 1 reason for the lull in violence.”

    I think it’s well established by now that he could speak English. The other facts of the case are not. You don’t know why he ran, or whether the police identified themselves.

    However, the salient point from Schneiers’ article remains; if you implement a shoot-to-kill policy with suspected suicide bombers, then suicide bombers will use counter-measures to defeat that policy.

    The suspected, or the “false positive,” bombers will be killed. That’s not good enough for me.

  18. A more insightful reasoning why shoot to kill is a fallacy.

  19. I wouldn’t look to Israel for advice on how to deal with terrorism. Do you think fewer, or more, people want do blow shit up in Israel now than they did 1 year ago? You need to deal with the source of the problem in a proactive manner.

  20. How can you deal with folks whose aim is to destroy your very existence? I mean if Israel stopped building settlements, you think that suicide bombers would just call it day, and go home?

    I mean as much as I hate to say it, Israel has the best counter-terrorism policies. It may not be appropriate, decent, fair etc but it works and will be no less effective than dealing with these assholes “in a proactive manner”.

  21. Maybe they would stop if Israel stopped building settlements, maybe they wouldn’t. Does that mean there is no solution?

    Again, so lets build a wall around England?

    Most Western nations don’t face the same threats that Israel does and therefore must adopt counter-terrorism policies that suit our societies best. Blanket anti-terrorism tactics won’t work.

    I don’t like to feel threatened by the State just as much as I don’t like being threatened by terrorism. Justifying a shoot-to-kill policy, (which to this date in England has killed 1 innocent man and 0 terrorists) on the basis of supposed enhanced security, isn’t something I’d endorse.

  22. Mate, nobody is justifying a shoot-to-kill policy. What I am saying is that there is a lot to learn from Israel in this department.

    I would disagree that most western nations don’t face a similar threat to Israel. They face a bigger threat because unlike Israel the threat is internal. The 200,000 muslims who live in Israel don’t harbor any ill will for their country. Its the outsiders that create the nuisance. Thats the reason England won’t get a barrier as you keep pointing it out again and again.

    The article that I linked to earlier and one of Schenier’s article on Profiling that Ram posted earlier are appropriate examples of how western societies should deal with terrorism. You can’t just take one unfortunate incident and say that all policies are dead wrong. Some will work, others won’t. We have to find the right ones.

    As for having a solution, yeah they have a nice solution for all of us – a caliphate from Turkey to Indonesia. I would like to hear how you will convince them otherwise.

  23. I reiterate the wall solution because when you speak of Israeli success rates in preventing suicide attacks, that is fundamentally the single most important counter-terrorist mechanism in play.

    To be (incendiarily? [adverbified]) glib, I’m assuming that’s the lesson you want Western nations to learn from Israel, and not their fiscal policies?

    Also, I never said Israel faced bigger or smaller threats. The threats though, as you’ve indicated, are different; Thus I feel different counter-terrorist tactics are required.

    As for taking “one unfortunate incident and say that all policies are dead wrong”, I don’t think that I said that. I said I opposed the shoot-to-kill policy and I would have opposed it before the “incident” but I, along with most of the world, did not know that was the new policy.

    Finally, the absence of an answer should not presume there is no answer. I feel if we approach the problem like that then we’ll be perpetually dealing with the just the symptoms.
    Do I have an answer? Nope.

  24. I was just saying that Schneier’s argument wasn’t good, not that the policy is good.

    (Part of) Schneier’s argument is that a shoot-to-kill policy is bad because (a) it doesn’t accomplish its goal of stopping the suicide bomber. Moreover, (b) the terrorist is smart enough to outwit it.

    Let’s consider whether (a) is valid argument.

    How do you stop a suicide bomber on his (her?) way to blow themselves up? (i) Negotiate (ii) isolate them so they cannot reach their target (iii) ask them to stop and then arrest them (iv) use (physical) force to arrest them (v) shoot-to-injury and arrest them (vi) shoot-to-kill (vii) do nothing.

    What “methods” (or “counter-measures”) will the terrorist use? (1) trigger that blows up if you press it (2) trigger that blows up if you stop pressing it, i.e. “Dead man’s trigger”, (3) some device that detects if the terrorist is dead (e.g. the “heart monitor” suggestion) (4) timer or remote control that the terrorist does not control (5) some combination of the above.

    (i) Negotiation won’t work because the issues driving this kind of terrorism are too complex and the only thing the suicide bomber has left to loose is failure to kill (other) people. (So maybe negotiation would work if you find yourself in scenario ii).

    (ii) Isolating the terrorist obviously works. But trapping the terrorist in some kind of empty building/room/empty is not very easy to do in the middle of busy city – there are almost always people around – and they can’t be trapped indefinitely (longer than hours or days). So this option does not cover all scenarios.

    (iii) Saying “Halt! Police!” and asking nicely is obviously not going to work.

    (iv) Using physical force to subdue them works for (3) and may work for (1) and (4), but not for (2).

    (v) Using shoot-to-injury has the same outcomes as (iv) [unless you accidently kill them and then it doesn’t work for (3)], although the probabilities for the “maybes”, (1) and (4), are likely a little differently.

    (vi) Shoot-to-kill stops the terrorist in case (1) and may work in case (4), but always fails in case (2) and (3).

    (vii) Doing nothing obviously never works.

    So no solution works all of the time and the only solutions that work some of the time are (iv), (v), and (vi). So which of the five “methods” is the terrorist more likely to use? (1) and (4) are both common. (2) can be unpractical – if the terrorist accidently lets go then they don’t acheive their desired outcome and I’m not aware of (3) actually happening. So under these assumptions (vi), the shoot-to-kill policy actually does (a reasonable) job of accomplishing goal (a), of stopping the suicide bomber.

    If we assume (b) the terrorist is smart enough to “outwit” your policy then what alternatives to (vi) do you have that satsify (a), particularly, if the terrorist opts for method (5)? Moreover, the argument that you shouldn’t do action X because the terrorist will think of a way around it can be applied to any defence that you come up with. So if we take that argument to it’s logical (extreme?) conclusion, the we should not even try to stop the terrorists. Which is, clearly, (one of) the least effectively defences possible.

    Hence, if your goal is to stop suicide bombers then a shoot-kill-policy is a valid solution. (i.e. This is why I said that Schneier’s argument is not convincing).

    However, as Sunny and Haran have pointed out Schneier’s article as ell as this entire argument left out the very important constraint, (c) of not killing innocent people in the process. A shoot-to-kill policy does a poor job of satisfying this goal. Society needs to decide what is more important – stopping suicide bombers (in the middle of a city) or not killing innocent people (in the process). That is a much harder problem to analyze because most (almost all?!) outcomes lead to innocent people being killed. :-(

    I (also) have to say that Haran’s last point is a very compelling one. We already have terrorists trying to kill “us”. Do we really need to State trying to kill “us” as well? (i.e. The “cut off the nose to spite the face” analogy).

  25. Oh, unrelated to my last post, but I forgot to add it…I found this today

  26. I think the point Haran is trying to make is that they (we) should find better ways of dealing with suspects that don’t result in death, this would negate any dead “false positives”.

    This version is so much more to-the-point. The ‘original’ is fake/photoshopped anyways.

  27. Ryan, excellent point about how all outcomes lead to loss of innocent lives. It also points to why the Met has chosen “shoot at sight” policy—its potentially the least damaging. As a society, we have decided to cut our losses. But our threshold definitely varies from one another. This in itself is tragic. Although it is heartening to hear and see Londoners carrying on with their lives as if nothing happened, we all know that something valuable has been lost.

    This whole thing reminds me of the encounter cops in India who basically kill underworld goons. Maybe Ram has seen “Ab Tak Chappan”? The idea is that the Indian justice system is owned by the bad guys and is very slow. So undercover cops provide their own vigilante justice – a bullet to the head. This is actual policy. It happens. Everybody will recognize that instead of solving one problem (the justice system), they have initiated another problem (justice without trial). So I really do appreciate Haran’s point—shoot to kill just creates another bigger problem without solving the initial root of the hatred of these terrorists.

    As much as I would love to see a solution, I doubt we will see one. I have given up all hope and sometimes feel we are fucked. You can’t reason with these guys. How long can we tolerate intolerance?

    Has anybody read any good books lately? I feel depressed.

  28. I’m almost done The Hunchback of Notre Dame, but it seem a little depressing too.

  29. The world needs more accountants. We’d all be more level headed and prosperous.

    Further to my flippant remark: I don’t expect a resolution or foresee a solution to terrorism.

    As an opinion poll: Do the readers here think that there is a peaceful solution that will satisfy the disgruntled parties? I can’t think of examples in history where such large cultural divides have been solved in any meaningful way.

  30. It’s not really a large cultural divide, it’s a small group of extremists amplifying their reach through terrorism.

  31. Maybe I’m a naive optimistic, but I think a “peaceful solution” is possible. (Or at least an notable improvement).

    Consider what Europe was like anytime before 60 years ago. Basically there was some kind of giant war all the time (e.g. Hundred’s Years War, Napoleanic War, WWI, WWII, etc.). It’s (obviously) still far from perfect, but now any kind of war in Europe is almost unthinkable. That’s a significant socio-economic-political change in a very short time.

    Now, the causes of (the current form of) terrorism are diverse. Ff you consider the causes of extremism by those who live in Middle East it’s clear that are concrete ways to address some of them. Extremism itself, of any form, will never disappear, but I agree with Ananthan that it is fueled largely by a small and extreme group of people. So by addressing some of these issues, the “normal” (view) can be shifted so that “extremism” becomes more “extreme”, which will marginalize it (further) and erode its support. Therefore, reducing its influence.

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