Azelle Rodney police shooting 'like cowboy scene'

Azelle Rodney Azelle Rodney was one of three men in the car stopped by police

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An inquiry into the death of a man shot six times by police has heard it was like a "cowboy and western scene".

Frank Graham told the inquiry into Azelle Rodney's death he felt bullets "hailing" on the car carrying the pair and another man in north-west London.

Armed police stopped the car in April 2005, fearing the occupants were carrying machine guns so they could rob a Colombian drugs gang.

As the officers surrounded the vehicle, an officer opened fire on Mr Rodney.

Mr Rodney, 24, was shot dead in Edgware on 30 April 2005 by a specialist firearms officer.

He was sitting in the back of the VW Golf which unmarked police vehicles had suddenly brought to a stop.

Detectives later found three guns in the car and the other two occupants, Mr Graham and Wesley Lovell, were subsequently jailed for possession of firearms.

'Not a pretty sight'

Speaking at the special inquiry set up to establish how Mr Rodney died, Graham described the moment the vehicle was boxed in and halted in what the police call a "hard stop".

He said he felt a repetition of bullets hailing on the vehicle, adding that it was a "cowboy and western scene".

Police forensics team searching outside The Railway Tavern in Edgware Azelle Rodney was sitting in the back of the car when police opened fire

Graham said he felt the car had been shunted from behind by one of the police vehicles - although he insisted he did not realise the men who jumped out shouting at him were officers.

"I saw a few people in caps and a T-shirt," he said.

"[They said] 'get out of the car, get out of the car, don't move, I'll shoot'.

"Not at any point did they describe themselves as policemen or did I think they were policemen... I could see no logos on the caps."

Graham said he heard the shots before he noticed any people approach the vehicle.

He said: "I froze. I allowed myself to listen to all the commands. I remember being dragged out of the window and onto the pavement. And then Mr Lovell followed."

As they were being held on the pavement he said he turned and asked where Azelle Rodney was.

He said one of the officers then said: "Don't look back, it's not a pretty sight."

The inquiry into Azelle Rodney's death follows years of delays because of rules relating to secret criminal intelligence material.

A coroner had to indefinitely adjourn the original inquest because neither he nor a jury were allowed to look at this secret material relating to how the arrest operation came about.

The inquiry, ordered by the justice secretary, can look at all of that evidence, but it will not be made public.

However, lawyers for Mr Rodney's family have already argued in court that the inquiry may fail to properly explore what happened if it does not examine how the operation was planned - and whether there could have been an opportunity to arrest the men without opening fire.

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