West Midlands Police officer probed over Sean Fitzgerald shooting

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Image caption,
Sean Fitzgerald was shot dead during a planned police raid

A police officer who shot dead an unarmed man during a planned operation is being investigated for gross misconduct, the police watchdog says.

Sean Fitzgerald, 31, was hit fleeing a house in Coventry as West Midlands Police entered through the front in January 2019.

The officer who fired the fatal shot is being investigated over their use of force, investigators said.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct said it was a "complex case".

A post-mortem examination confirmed Mr Fitzgerald died of a single gunshot wound to the chest.

No weapons were found by officers at the scene in Burnaby Road after the raid on 4 January, the opening of the 31-year-old's inquest heard.

The IOPC said it launched an independent investigation following a mandatory referral from the force.

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Image caption,
Sean Fitzgerald was shot at a house in Coventry in January 2019

After reviewing evidence, there was no indication that a criminal offence may have been committed, however the officer who shot Mr Fitzgerald was served with a gross misconduct notice last week, the IOPC said.

Serving a notice advises the officer their actions are under investigation and does not indicate that misconduct has been proven, they added.

Mr Fitzgerald's brother, Liam, said the family were pleased the officer was facing investigation but were "shocked" the IOPC had not put the officer under criminal investigation.

"We have only been given limited information to date, but that information indicates that the officer should be under criminal investigation in close co-ordination with the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service), with a charging decision being made without delay," he said.

He said the family also want West Midlands Police to reconsider the status of the officer.

"Sean is greatly missed by all his family and friends and we continue to seek answers and justice for him," he added.

Image caption,
Tributes to Mr Fitzgerald were left at the scene in 2019

IOPC regional director Derrick Campbell said the death was a "tragic incident" and a robust investigation was needed covering all lines of inquiry.

"This has been a particularly complex investigation looking at not only the shooting itself but the intelligence, assessments, planning and decisions which took place prior to the pre-planned police operation," he said.

"It has been an evolving picture, and due to the nature of the issues involved we have had to await expert advice."

Mr Fitzgerald's family and the force have been updated on the progress of the investigation and the findings would be released in due course, Mr Campbell added.

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