Saturday, July 23, 2005

One London terror suspect shot

One terrorist suspect has been shot in London--London bombs terror attack The Times and Sunday Times Times Online.

Three officers had followed him to Stockwell station after he emerged from a nearby house that police believed to be connected with Thursday's attempted bombings.

The suspect, described as being of Asian appearance and wearing a thick, bulky jacket, vaulted over a ticket barrier when challenged by police and ran down the escalator and along the platform of the Northern Line.

When the armed officers reached the platform with their guns drawn, they shouted at everyone to get down. As waiting passengers and those already on a train that had pulled into the station dived to the floor, the suspect jumped on the train. Two witnesses said that as he entered the train he tripped, ending up half in and half out of the carriage, on all fours. Within seconds, as the clock tower outside the station chimed 10am, the officers caught up with the man and pushed him hard to the floor. Witnesses said that they then fired up to five bullets into him at close range, killing him instantly.

I know this is a terribly rude thing to say and I will probably regret it but it seems so fitting: "MIND THE GAAAP!"

This appears at first glance like the sort of thing that you might expect from a third world country. When I was in Venezuela a few years back, there was a hold up at a bank, I think it was. (It was a hold up. Whether it was a bank is the memory problem.) The police got to the scene fairly quickly and chased them down. One of the criminals was downed by a shot early on. When the officers passed him on the sidewalk, they pumped more bullets into him. Due process, at least in the sense that they thought he was due it.

But this is only superficially like that shooting. This guy was supposed to have wires hanging out of his coat, at least that is what some reported. That he didn't have a bomb or that he might not have had wires in fact running out of his coat in the end, doesn't really change the risks the situation presented to the officers and to those others on the subway car. If he had had a bomb and could have set it off, there would have been casualties, possibly lots of them. To shoot him would be the lesser of two evils. It also may end up defining a new reality.

This may be unsatisfactory to some. But I would ask what the alternative is to it? Even those who might be crying out against such an outrage--"he didn't have a bomb!"-- would themselves demand it if they were faced with the constant threat of bombs going off in all areas of London, week after week after week. The point is that due process tends to become nothing more than a procedural nicety when a society is under attack.

But maybe something will be lost with that in the long run. I don't really know.