Chelsea Bridge death: family say Met police wrong to Taser man – The Guardian

Relatives of Oladeji Omishore say 41-year-old was ‘clearly in distress’ and Met actions contributed to his death
The Metropolitan police were wrong to Taser a man on Chelsea Bridge and their “excessive and unnecessary force” contributed to his death, his family have said.
The family of Oladeji Omishore, 41, used a Guardian interview to tell of the “nightmare” and grief they were suffering and vowed to spend the years necessary to battle for justice.
Video circulated on social media shows part of the clash with police, with Omishore, wearing a T-shirt and shorts, being hit by the electric stun gun delivering a shock of up to 50,000 volts on 4 June, then clambering over a barrier and falling into the River Thames below.
He died later that day in hospital and his father, two sisters and brother told how they believed bias had led to him being seen as a threat when he needed “compassion”, and that they found out a Taser had been used from the internet and not from the police.
The Met initially said officers were called to reports from the public of a man clutching a screwdriver who was causing a disturbance. It turned out it was a firelighter.
Omishore’s father, Alfred, said he was clear who bore responsibility for the death of his son, who was known by his family as Deji: “There is no doubt about that. The Metropolitan police are solely responsible for his untimely death, in the sense they used excessive and unnecessary force on him.
“At a time it was obvious he going through a crisis … Using a Taser on vulnerable people like Deji is very wrong. We have taken this tough decision to speak out to the public because we know that Deji met his untimely death because of the police actions on him.”
Alfred, a former Home Office civil servant, said the role Taser use played in the death was “quite obvious to everyone”.
“It was too painful … he was on the floor, and they kept on using the Taser on him repeatedly. He was in pain, was holding his chest. They had the opportunity to restrain him, deescalate.
“The impact of the pain, the unbearable pain, must have led him to jump to the river.”
His sister Aisha said: “We can say there’s no other reason he would have ended up in that river. He did not leave his home intending to end up there.”
She added that he may have jumped the barrier to escape the Taser.
The family said Deji lived close by, and the spot where he was Tasered was a few hundred feet from his door. They said he was a fitness enthusiast, and it was likely that at 9am when he came face to face with police he was out for a run or walk.
His sister Remi said: “What we witnessed … was a reflection of the systemic issue that are plaguing the Met in terms of their practices, discriminating against especially black men, and black men with vulnerable, underlying mental health or health conditions. As a family, we were outraged, absolutely outraged by what we witnessed, and it’s unacceptable.
“It is clear from the video footage that we saw that he is clearly in distress, he is clearly frightened, and he needed help.”
His brother, Kenny, said: “Our responsibility is to ensure that our brother’s death wasn’t in vain, to advocate for change … in the Met police and their conduct.
“They failed to show compassion in a moment where our brother was essentially crying out for help.”
The family said better training was needed for police, including on dealing with people with mental health issues, a long-running issue for policing.
Alfred said: “For the police to have mistaken a gas firelighter for a screwdriver was so unbelievable.”
Remi added: “My brother did not pose a threat to the community or to the officers.”
The family are angered about partial information they were given as Deji lay gravely ill in hospital hours after being rescued from the river. “It was actually the doctor who told us he jumped into the river,” said Alfred.
They say they were not told a Taser had been used on him and only found out when Remi, who lives in the US, Googled news coverage. They feel police were trying to hide things from them and also criticised wrong information put out in the aftermath.
The family are being supported by Inquest, a charity that provides support regarding state-related deaths. Deborah Coles, the charity’s director, said: “It is in both the family and public interest that police officers are subject to robust investigation of the highest standard.”
An inquiry by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) will investigate why statements were being put out the following day that Omishore had carried a screwdriver when it may well have been clear it was not. The family are angry that it took almost two weeks to correct that statement.
They believe the police watchdog is wrong to still be treating the officers involved as witnesses, instead of placing them under investigation. Omishore’s father said: “It’s like a nightmare to me, up till now … devastating for my family.”
Aisha said: “It has been a really tragic few months. As a family this has come as a huge shock and just a devastating blow.”
The Met said: “This was a tragic incident and our sympathies are with Mr Omishore’s family as they continue to come to terms with the loss of their loved one. This matter is subject to an investigation by the IOPC.
We are co-operating fully with the IOPC’s investigation and their findings will be released in due course.”
An IOPC spokesperson said: “At this early stage we have no indication that any of the officers involved may have breached police professional standards or committed a criminal offence, although we keep conduct matters constantly under review.
“We can confirm that a police-issued Taser was discharged multiple times. The data from the Taser has been sent off for external analysis and we are awaiting the Taser report.”

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