He was a Brazilian who looked Middle Eastern. And for that he was shot and killed by London police in one of the city’s subway stations in July 2005.
As it turned out, Jean Charles de Menezes was not a suicide bomber. He had no explosives and had no affiliation with any terrorist group. And he never ran from police as they first claimed.
This week, during an investigative hearing on the mistakes that led to the shooting, a London judge has ordered that the officers who shot him remain anonymous.
Which explains why a London cameraman was arrested this week after attempting to film one of the officers in a vehicle pulling away from the Oval cricket ground, where the hearing was taking place.
Coroner Sir Michael Wright QC said any attempt to identify the men would be treated as a contempt of court and result in “serious consequences.”
He said: “I understand that yesterday evening there was an incident at the gates of the Oval when a photographer, as I understand it, is believed to have attempted to take a photograph of an anonymised witness or witnesses, either arriving at or leaving the premises.
“I wish to make it clear yet again that any attempt to breach the order that I have made to protect the anonymity of anonymised witnesses is a contempt of court, and that any such attempt is likely to result in serious consequences both for the photographer and his editor.”
The question is, why should these officers remain anonymous?
During this “war on terror” that has given police in the U.K. and the U.S. a green light to shoot and kill anybody who doesn’t look or act right, it should be mandated that the identity of these officers be immediately disclosed.
If they hold the responsibility to decide whether we, as citizens, live or die, then they should have the responsibility to publicly stand up for their actions.
A similar incident happened in the United States a few months later at Miami International Airport in December 2005 when federal air marshals shot and killed Rigoberto Alpizar, a Costa Rican man who had a history of mental illness.
Alpizar apparently was off his medication and was having an episode. He attempted to walk off a plane, which was still parked on the tarmac and had the door open. According to federal authorities, Alpizar claimed he had a bomb in his backpack.
But witnesses have contradicted this claim.
Several passengers on the flight have contradicted the government’s claim, saying they never heard Alpizar say anything about a bomb. For example, John McAlhany said in an interview “I never heard the word ‘bomb’ on the plane”, … “I never heard the word ‘bomb’ until the FBI asked me did you hear the word ‘bomb’.” And another passenger, Mary Gardner, added, “I did not hear him say that he had a bomb.”
A Miami-Dade State Attorney’s investigation cleared the marshals in the shooting. But as in the London case, they were never publicly identified.
And this goes against democracy and an open government, a concept both countries have been trying to spread abroad during this war on terror.