Mark Whitby said he was sitting on the Tube at Stockwell Station (search) on Friday when the man ran in to the train car. “As he ran, he was hotly pursued by what I knew to be three plain-clothes police officers,” Whitby told BBC News 24.The man, who was wearing a thick, padded jacket and who had recently been spotted leaving a suspected terrorist safe house that was under police surveillance, was initially believed to be a homicide bomber due to his dress, his Arab-looking features, and his reactions after being confronted by police. It turns out, however, that the individual, Jean Charles de Menezes, a Brazilian national, was not a terrorist but instead was living and working in London illegally after the expiration of his work visa, and he evidently fled from the police so he wouldn't be deported back to Brazil.
"As the man got on the train I looked at his face. He looked from left to right, but he basically looked like a cornered rabbit, like a cornered fox,” Whitby said. "He looked absolutely petrified.”
"He half-tripped, was half-pushed to the floor,” Whitby said. "One of the police officers was holding a black automatic pistol in his left hand. They held it down to him and unloaded five shots into him. I saw it. He's dead, five shots, he's dead."
Predictably, some are outraged by what they see as an overreaction by the Metropolitan Police who, in their view, illegally gunned down an innocent man. My response: after two terrorist attacks in as many weeks that resulted in the deaths of scores of innocents on London subways and buses, what did Menezes expect? Yes, it is regrettable that an man who was guilty only of illegal immigration is dead. However, the only party to blame for this tragedy is Menezes himself.
He knew what had been happening in London. He knew that police would be especially suspicious and cautious, and especially quick in any attempt to stop another terrorist attack. He knew his visa was expired and he alone made the decision to run.
To those who think the police overreacted, put yourself in their place. Your city has been attacked by terrorists, and you probably have personally seen the bloody results of their carnage. Your department has made every effort to ensure the security of the citizenry while also planning for worst-case scenarios... and a pursued bomb-laden terrorist getting on the subway and detonating himself is about as worst-case as it gets. So... you receive orders to confront a man wearing a thick jacket, in the heat of the summer, who has been seen by police exiting a suspected terrorist nest. Several of you approach the suspect, and some of you are openly armed (which is extremely rare in London). Instead of stopping and showing identification when asked, the suspect instead immediately flees towards the nearest Tube stop and you, of course, pursue.
Now we have a situation where an Arab-looking young man in a thick, padded jacket is fleeing the police and heading towards the subway. This meets every criteria of the terrorist bomber profile. Heavy, padded jacket in warm weather? Check! Looks Arabic? Check! Flees from police? Check! Heads for the subway, dear God? Check!
At this point, Menezes' fate is just about sealed. The only thing he could have done to even possibly keep himself from being shot would have been to immediately take off his jacket and fling it away from himself, throw himself spread-eagled on the ground, and scream "I surrender!!" repeatedly... thus breaking the profile. We know, of course, that Menezes did not do this.
Instead, he vaulted over the subway turnstiles, headed towards the nearest train, and jumped aboard with numerous police carrying shotguns, submachine guns, and handguns openly running after him, clearly convinced that Menezes was indeed a homicide bomber, realizing that perhaps they had only moments to live unless they absolutely and unfailingly prevented the suspect from detonating his bomb, and screaming to other passengers "Get out! Get out!" in an attempt to save as many innocent lives as possible in the probably case they failed.
You see, if Menezes had been a homicide bomber, he would have blown himself up as soon as he got on the train, because even though the police were only seconds behind him, seconds are all that he would have needed. And, standard procedures when apprehending a homicide bomber suspect is, if you are lucky enough to get close enough to shoot him before he detonates himself, then shoot him repeatedly until you are convinced he can no longer act to blow himself up.
Hey, if you don't want the greyhounds to chase you, don't act like the rabbit. It is obvious that the pursuing officers were convinced they would most likely be killed, yet rather than get the heck out of the subway they continued the pursuit and caught the suspect because it offered the only chance to save innocent lives. Knowingly risking violent death to save others is the classic definition of heroism.
So, don't blame the heroes. Blame the person responsible. Blame Menezes, a man who died from terminal stupidity, who did everything wrong. It is a tragedy that an innocent man was killed. But the tragedy is the sole responsibility of the victim, Menezes, and not the London Metropolitan Police.
For more on this subject, follow the link to Captain's Quarters.
Update: Michelle Malkin is reporting that others have picked up on this theme.