all credits: Paul Suart The Free Library
9th December 2009
A Birmingham father-of-three who died in police custody was suspected of carrying a gun because of the area he was in, police conceded.
Officers were called to Wilton Street in Lozells where Michael Powell, 38, had smashed windows at his mother’s home. Lozells was, at the time of the disturbance central to a police operation to tackle gun crime within the black community following a spate of shootings in the area.
When the first police car arrived Mr Powell, who suffered with mental health problems, ran at it with an unknown weapon and smashed a rear window. He was later restrained by a passerby and several officers, bundled into a van and taken to Thornhill Road police station where minutes later he died.
At the inquest into his death, the jury heard how Mr Powell, after attacking the car, was seen searching the boot of his car before returning to the police vehicle with his hands behind his back. PC David Hadley, who was inside the police car, admitted that the area he had been called to had influenced his thinking and prompted him to suspect the item Mr Powell had picked up was a gun.
PC Hadley, now a sergeant, said that Mr Powell’s violent behaviour in his initial attack of the car added to his suspicion that Mr Powell had obtained a firearm and that it had nothing to do with his skin colour.
“He was rummaging around in the boot – he was looking for something specific,” he said. “We thought pure and simple it was a gun. “The reason we thought he had a gun was his actions on the night – it was not the fact he was a black man. He could have been any colour, it would not have mattered.”
Rajiv Menon, counsel for Mr Powell’s family, suggested the officers’ actions were racially motivated. “Your failure to call for (immediate) assistance and the way you got out of the car is not consistent with you thinking he had a gun.”