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Tuesday, 17 July, 2001, 12:14 GMT 13:14 UK
Police shooting row deepens
Police in Brixton
The man had a replica gun cigarette lighter
Home Secretary David Blunkett has entered the growing controversy over police "live fire" after a man carrying a cigarette lighter shaped as a gun was shot dead in London.

Mr Blunkett said the Home Office needed to work with senior officers to avoid incidents such as that in Brixton on Monday, and a similar fatal police shooting in Liverpool last week.

Separate inquiries have been launched by the police into the two incidents. Campaigners say the shootings have undermined public confidence in the police.

The home secretary said he would not comment on the individual cases, but stressed that he wanted to examine possible alternatives to the use of firearms.

Silver cigarette lighter
Police confirmed the gun was a cigarette lighter
Mr Blunkett said: "We are looking at alternatives and we will want to come forward with the chief constables to avoid incidents of this sort.

"We need a proportionate response to the particular nature of threat that is being offered.

"That needs to be done carefully, not on the back of individual cases.

He said if police used firearms when they believed a suspect was armed with live ammunition, they deserved public support.

He added: "I'm pleased that these two cases' referral was made immediately because that has not always been the case."

Police were called to a block of flats in Loughborough Road, Brixton, shortly after 1500BST on Monday after receiving reports of an armed man in the area.

Shot six times

A man, thought to be in his 30s, was then shot six times by armed response officers and was later pronounced dead at King's College Hospital.

A Metropolitan Police spokeswoman said: "It is now known that the weapon recovered at the scene is a replica gun cigarette lighter.

"It is believed six shots were fired by one of two armed officers who attended the scene".

It is thought the man shot dead was the same man who had earlier been seen at the nearby flats.

ACPO Firearms Guidelines
Firearms should be used only when absolutely necessary after conventional methods have failed
Authorised firearms officers must give a clear warning of their intention to use weapon
Officers should reassess the need for further action after each shot fired
The right to life of all people must be considered, including those of the subject
Both firearms officers are to receive post trauma support and counselling.

Firearms specialist Mike Yardley called for better use of technology to provide alternative weapons for police.

"If the political will was there it would be possible to create far better non-lethal means of intervention than are available at the present."

He believes that in some cases police could be taught to shoot to wound rather than to kill.

But deputy assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Tim Godwin defended the use of guns by officers.

"I think there are always serious concerns about the use of firearms with police because we are an unarmed civilian service.

"It is with great regret that we have to use firearms in specific situations.

"It's a sad reality of life that we have to have the capacity to respond with firearms."

Public confidence

Rules for the use and deployment of firearms are drawn up by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO).

Molly Meacher, deputy chair of the Police Complaints Authority said: "The most important point about this investigation is that it should be entirely independent and it should have the confidence of the people in Brixton and the family of the man who has died."

A spokeswoman for pressure group Inquest said it was concerned about the second fatal shooting by police in four days.

"We feel public confidence is being undermined by these deaths."

She said independent government inquiries should be set up to deal with such shooting investigations.

Last week Andrew Kernan, 37, was shot dead as he refused to put down a Samurai sword he was brandishing in Wavertree, Liverpool.

Police want to hear from anyone who witnessed the incident in Brixton or who has information that would help the investigation. Contact 020 7326 1212.

The BBC's Rachel Harrison
"The Police Complaints Authority has now launched an investigation"
Duncan Gear of the Police Complaints Authority
"Very many of these replica weapons can appear, from a distance, exactly like the real thing"
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