Force Science News #30:

Breaking News: 2 Cops Cleared by Force Science in Controversial

“Shot-From-Behind” Encounter

After 6 tense years of investigation, 2 officers in London, England, have been exonerated in a highly controversial shooting, thanks to the last-minute analysis of the circumstances by the Force Science Research Center. The officers had potentially faced trial on charges of criminal homicide and long prison terms.

 

The shooting occurred in 1999 when Chief Insp. Neil Sharman and Cst. Kevin Fagan, so-called “gun cops” on London’s Metropolitan Police, confronted a 46-year-old Scottish painter and father of 3 who had allegedly boasted in a pub that he was armed with a sawed-off shotgun. At least one patron took him to be an Irish terrorist, and phoned police.

 

 

When Sharman and Fagan challenged the suspect on an East London street, he turned toward them, pointing a long, blue plastic bag in their direction. They believed the bag contained the gun.

 

The suspect was shot fatally in the head and in the hand. Because of the placement of the head wound, local forensic investigators concluded the man was shot from behind, unjustifiably, rather than as he faced the officers in a threatening manner, as they insisted.

 

Complicating matters, the bag turned out to contain not a shotgun but a wooden coffee table leg that had been repaired by the suspect’s brother.

 

Over the years, 2 inquests, 2 case reviews and 3 separate referrals for prosecution for an “unlawful killing” followed, accompanied by public outrage and media hype targeting the officers. Last June, Sharman and Fagan were arrested on suspicion of murder, gross negligence manslaughter, perjury and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. Their prospects looked grim.

 

A few weeks later Dr. Bill Lewinski of the Force Science Research Center at Minnesota State University-Mankato was asked by London police and union representatives to review the case. His analysis, drawing from his meticulous studies of physical dynamics in police shootings, along with a unique animated reconstruction of the event by Parris Ward, an FSRC National Advisory Board member, proved critical in suddenly and dramatically turning the case in the officers’ favor.

 

Last week, to the accused officers’ relief, prosecutors announced that no charges would be pursued any further.

 

Watch for a full account of force science at work in this fascinating case in an upcoming issue of Force Science News.

 

II. IS THAT A SUICIDE BOMBER…OR JUST A JOGGER?

 

Police in California report a piece of sports training equipment that could cause an officer to mistake an innocent jogger for a would-be suicide bomber.

 

The item is a “weighted running vest,” which affixes to the torso and back with shoulder straps and a wide, Velcro waistband. Large pockets front and rear can be filled with small-diameter, solid metal cylinders about the length of a shotgun shell to add extra poundage and thereby intensify a jogger’s workout.

 

“These vests are becoming popular among joggers, and it’s likely we will see an increase of individuals utilizing them,” cautions a photo bulletin circulated to law enforcement. “All personnel should use extreme caution when confronting any individual wearing a vest of this nature, as it’s difficult to differentiate between a running vest and a suicide bomber’s vest.”

 

Notes Cpl. John Chapman of the Presidio of Monterey (CA) P.D.: “This thing looks almost exactly like a homicide bomber vest. Our concerns include the obvious: implementing suicide-bomber response against someone training for a run, or the opposite, a real homicide bomber using this item to [disguise carrying] his device.”

 

Photos of this equipment are posted at:

 

www.forcesciencenews.com/visuals/weightcoat

 

Our thanks to Cpl. Chapman and George “Butch” Rogers, an instructor with the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) and a member of the Force Science Research Center’s Technical Advisory Board, for bringing the ambiguous vest to the attention of the Force Science News membership.

 

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(c) 2005: Force Science Research Center, www.forcescience.org. Reprints

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State University, Mankato.

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Written by Force Science Institute

October 25th, 2005 at 4:13 pm

© 2017 Force Science Institute Ltd.