The inquest into the death of Rashan Charles who died after being restrained by police opened today at St Pancras court in London.
A jury heard that Rashan died on 22 July last year after contact with a Metropolitan police officer and a second man, said to be a member of the public. The incident took place at a convenience shop in Hackney, East London. Rashan was 20 years old and a father of one.
CCTV from the shop and from police body worn camera footage was slowed down and played to the court, including the moment when Rashan is restrained, handcuffed and held down by the two men. A member of Rashan’s family left the court tears after watching the footage.
Members of the public and the press could only listen to proceedings from two narrow pews behind a floor-to-ceiling black curtain which hung across the small court. The curtain was put into place to provide anonymity for two police officers and two witnesses.
Last November coroner Mary Hassell granted anonymity to two police officers and two witnesses — including the officer and member of the public involved in restraining Rashan. The officers will be referred to as BX47 and BX48 throughout the inquest, while the witnesses will be called Witness 1 and Witness 2. Their faces will be seen only by the jury, members of the court, named members of the family and lawyers.
In footage of the incident shown to the court, officer BX47 can be seen grabbing Rashan from behind, spinning him around and throwing him to the ground. As he kneels over Rashan, a second man, Witness 1, arrives at the scene and holds Rashan down. The two men handcuff Rashan. By now Rashan’s body is limp. Witness 1 leans on Rashan, his knee on the young man’s leg, while BX47 is focused on Rashan’s mouth.
Witness 1 and police officer BX47 handcuff Rashan Charles on the floor of a Hackney convenience store, Saturday 22 July 2017
The coroner asked BX47 why he didn’t ask Witness 1 to leave the scene. “Looking back with hindsight, do you think that it would have been better for you to have taken charge more?” BX47 answered: “It’s hard to say. I couldn’t say. I honestly don’t know.” Hassell pressed him and asked that if a similar situation occurred again would he ask a member of the public to leave a scene so that he as a police officer could take charge. BX47 said: “Possibly.”
The coroner asked BX47 about Rashan’s state during the restraint and why called back up before calling an ambulance. “I didn’t think he had lost consciousness,” he said.
BX47 will continue to give evidence tomorrow. The inquest is scheduled to last three weeks.
Edited by Clare Sambrook for Shine A Light.