Poet Benjamin Zephaniah’s cousin died after being ‘run down and gassed by police’

Dr Benjamin Zephaniahfrom The Telegraph
4th November 2009

The cousin of a renowned poet died after police ran him over, sprayed him with CS gas then beat him, before refusing to call an ambulance, an inquest heard.

Michael Powell was attacked outside his home because officers said they feared he had a gun. After hitting him with a police car, spraying him and beating him with batons, they decided not to call an ambulance, instead bundling him into the back of a police van and taking him to a station.

As they carried him inside the building, they noticed he had died.

Yesterday his mother said she had begged officers to call an ambulance and said: “I don’t think they would have treated Michael that way if he had been white or I had been white”.

A jury heard that Mr Powell, the cousin of the celebrated Rastafarian poet Benjamin Zephaniah, suffered from mental health problems and his mother Clarissa Powell, who lived with him, called police after he was acting strangely and smashed a window at their home in Lozells, Birmingham, in September 2003.

Initially two officers from West Midlands police turned up, and Mr Powell removed his belt and swung it at their patrol car, the buckle smashing the back window.

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