An unarmed father-of-two was “lawfully killed” by a firearms officer during a foiled prison break, but police made numerous failures in the planning and execution of the operation, an inquiry has concluded.
Jermaine Baker was fatally shot at close range as he sat in the front passenger seat of a stolen Audi A6 near Wood Green Crown Court in north London in December 2015 by police who suspected he and other conspirators were about to free a dangerous prisoner from a custody van.
The 28-year-old, from Tottenham, was unarmed at the time he was shot by a counter-terrorism specialist firearms officer known only as W80, who told the inquiry he thought Mr Baker was reaching for a weapon.
An imitation firearm was later found in the rear of the Audi.
Inquiry chairman His Honour Clement Goldstone QC concluded that, while Mr Baker was lawfully killed, there were police failings at almost every stage of the operation, which would “serve as a loud wake-up call” to the next Metropolitan Police Commissioner, following the resignation of Dame Cressida Dick.
Jermaine Baker Family handout
He said: “I conclude that, when W80 shot Mr Baker, he held an honest and genuine belief that Mr Baker was moving in order to reach for the firearm.
“As such, W80 perceived that Mr Baker posed a lethal threat… I draw the conclusion, on the balance of probabilities, that the perceived threat from the actions and movement of Mr Baker was such that W80 honestly believed that it was reasonably necessary for him to shoot at Mr Baker.”
Baker was fatally shot at close range as he sat in the front passenger seat of a stolen Audi A6 near Wood Green Crown Court in north London John Stillwell
Mr Baker’s mother, Margaret Smith, said her son was “no angel”, but that he “should have gone to prison” rather than be fatally shot, and called on the inquiry chairman to consider whether her son being black could have been a factor in him being killed.
But Mr Goldstone said he “found no evidence to support a finding that race played any part in Mr Baker’s death”.
He also said that W80’s “overall credibility” as a witness “remained largely intact”.
The inquiry chairman highlighted a number of failures, including that public safety should have been – but was not – the primary objective of the operation, that intelligence that the conspirators had only been able to source an imitation firearm was not passed on to W80 and others, and the “delusional” idea that the operation would succeed in ridding the streets of north London of lethal firearms.