Shine A Light

“Accidental Death” of a Young Black Londoner, The Case of Rashan Charles

A short documentary film on a death by police restraint.

Clare Sambrook Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi
26 November 2020, 6.00am

When Rod Charles first heard that his great nephew Rashan had died whilst being detained by a police officer, he assumed that the incident must have merited whatever action the officer took. Why wouldn’t he? Rod Charles had served for 30 years with the Metropolitan Police, retiring at the rank of Chief Inspector, and Rashan was a young man with low level criminal convictions.

That first news came on the day Rashan died, Saturday 22 July 2017. Rod recalls: “It wasn’t until 20 or 24 hours later, the Sunday morning, when a niece called me to say Uncle Rodney have a look at some footage what’s on CCTV which has been uploaded to YouTube. And it was when I looked at the footage on YouTube, that changed everything.”

Somebody had uploaded a few minutes’ fuzzy footage recorded on a mobile phone from a CCTV monitor in a Hackney supermarket. It showed a police officer pursuing Rashan into the shop, grabbing him from behind, hurling him to the floor with a combat throw, and heavily restraining him. It showed a second man joining the restraint, pinning Rashan down, and helping to handcuff him when he was limp and unresponsive.

“The officer was not at fear of harm from Rashan. He threatened nothing to the officer. No member of the public nearby was threatened by Rashan,” says Rod. “The nature of the force being used. . .has caused me and continues to cause me a lot of concern.”

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Rashan Charles was 20 years old, a loving father to his daughter, who was coming up to two years old when he died. He was a beloved son, friend, nephew, cousin, brother and, as Rod puts it, “an integral part of the family”.

In our new documentary film, “Accidental Death” of a Young Black Londoner, The Case of Rashan Charles, Rod Charles examines previously unseen footage that reveals more about what happened to Rashan. Rod questions the quality of the investigation into Rashan’s death, the “accidental” deletion of evidence, the tactics of police lawyers and the conduct of the coroner at the inquest that concluded with a finding of “accidental death”.

Our film shows, for the first time, curious interactions between the man who helped restrain Rashan and several officers at the scene, interactions that raise questions about the official narrative.

You can find out more from our continuing investigation here at Shine A Light. The articles and film contain distressing images and descriptions of violent restraint.

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