UK

Wood Green shooting: Jermaine Baker death in spotlight

Scene Image copyright PA

On 11 December, Jermaine Baker was shot dead in north London. A police firearms officer has been arrested following the shooting, but much of what happened during the incident remains a mystery.

Jermaine Baker was 28. He died in a side street around the corner from Wood Green Crown Court, where two convicted prisoners were expected to arrive by van that morning to be sentenced.

Police say there was a plot to stop the van and release the prisoners outside the gates to the court.

At around 09:00 GMT on 11 December they moved in, surrounding a black Audi. What happened next is unclear.

No body cameras

It appears that a gunshot hit Mr Baker, who was sitting in the car. He either climbed out, or was dragged out, because he died on the pavement despite attempts by the police to save his life.

It happened so quickly that eye-witnesses have given clearer descriptions of the aftermath than of the shooting itself.

There was no CCTV and the plain-clothed specialist firearms officers involved weren't issued with the body-worn cameras the Metropolitan Police is rolling out.

What has been described by investigators as a "non-police issue firearm" was apparently found in the car. Two other men were arrested there - the BBC has been told by eye-witnesses they were also in the car.

This sort of incident is incredibly rare. The number of people killed by police officers each year is usually in very the low single figures. Some years there are no fatalities.

Image caption Jermaine Baker was shot in Bracknell Close, near Wood Green Crown Court

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) investigates every police shooting, providing evidence at inquests and disciplinary hearings.

But in the Baker case something highly unusual happened. Just two days after the shooting, the IPCC began a homicide inquiry.

Cindy Butts, an IPCC commissioner, told a public meeting there was evidence a police officer may have broken the law in his use of force.

Ms Butts told the audience: "This is not a decision we took lightly."

It led to a police officer being arrested, cautioned and questioned. It may not lead to any charges. Only in a handful of cases in modern times have police officers faced a jury for murder or manslaughter.

It is not currently clear why this officer is being investigated. Under law, the police have no special powers. They have to be able to show they used reasonable force even when using a gun.

Because suspects have been arrested in connection with both the alleged rescue plot and the shooting, some details of the case can't be reported.

Anger at meeting

However, police have said they were involved in a planned operation. If in future an officer is charged and found guilty then something will have gone very wrong in the planning, the execution, or both.

Either way, the reaction from activists in Tottenham, where Mr Baker grew up, was furious.

Four years ago in a similar operation, Mark Duggan was shot dead.

In 2011 local people gathered, but found no police officers available to meet them. The IPCC wrongly briefed journalists that Duggan had fired at police. The unrest that followed triggered riots in London, spreading to other parts of England.

This time, a public meeting was held at which senior officers faced the fury.

Many people wanted to know why body-worn cameras weren't available. The answer was that no device has been found to suit undercover officers.

Some in the community believe that the men in the car were asleep when the police moved in. The IPCC wasn't able to say either way.

There was anger at press reports that Mr Baker was a gang member. Victor Olisa, the local police borough commander, said he was not in any of the Met's gang monitoring databases.

The meeting may have taken the pressure out of the situation. However, the IPCC is now under pressure to carry out a swift, decisive and fair investigation, amid heightened emotions.

In the meantime, Jermaine Baker's inquest is expected to be adjourned.