British police acknowledged yesterday that the man plainclothes officers shot and killed in an Underground station Friday as commuters watched in horror was not in any way connected to the failed attacks on London's transportation system the day before.
Scotland Yard released a statement expressing regret for the shooting of the man, identified as Jean Charles de Menezes, a 27-year-old electrician from Brazil, and called it a ''tragedy."
The shooting put London's intense manhunt for the bombers -- and the apparent activation of a ''shoot-to-kill" policy by law enforcement -- into sharp relief and raised questions about how authorities are balancing public safety and civil rights amid the new specter of suicide bombings.
The frantic pace of what is being described by police as the largest investigation in the city's history has raised concerns among the Muslim community and civil rights groups that understandably anxious law enforcement officials may be undercutting public confidence in policing at a time when they are appealing to the public for help in confronting terrorism.
The shooting Friday morning in a busy Underground station of a man who later was found to have nothing to do with the bombers has confirmed some of those fears. A Brazilian news agency and the Brazilian Embassy in London confirmed that de Menezes was the shooting victim and said he was a Brazilian citizen who had lived in London for three years.
Brazilian media reported that de Menezes came from the small city of Gonzaga, some 500 miles northeast of Sao Paulo in the state of Minas Gerais. The reports said he had been in London for three years and that his family was Roman Catholic. ''He spoke English very well, and had permission to study and work there," de Menezes's cousin, Maria Alves, told the O Globo Online website from her home in Sao Paulo.
When asked if he had become Muslim in Britain, Agostino Ferreira Rosa, a policeman in Gonzaga said, ''According to his family, he had nothing to do with Muslims or Islamism."
More than a year ago, British police were empowered with rules of engagement while responding to suspected suicide bombers, said Mike Granatt, former head of emergency security planning for the British government. He said the former rules of engagement, which required officers to shoot at the body of a suspect to disable them, had been changed to permit them to shoot at the suspect's head if there were reasonable suspicion that the suspect was a bomber who could detonate an explosive while wounded.
The wingnut defense on this one is that he ran, so he must have deserved it. Why did he run? Who knows? Maybe he had two kilos of smack hidden in his coat, although I tend to think we'd already know if that was the case. But maybe de Menzes just read the papers and panicked at the prospect of questioning taking place somewhere other than the local precinct house