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Civil Society

London jury vindicates police shooting

A British inquest jury has found that police lawfully shot dead a man in London's Tottenham suburb more than two years ago. Fatal nationwide riots were sparked by the death of Mark Duggan in 2011.

Jurors at a London inquest found on Wednesday that a police marksman truly believed Duggan was armed with a handgun and said it was likely he had thrown the weapon over a fence seconds before being confronted.

The jury's 8-2 majority decision prompted outrage from Duggan's family and supporters outside London's Royal Courts of Justice. Family lawyer Marcia Willis Steward said Duggan had been "murdered" with "no gun in his hand."

Metropolitan Police chief Bernard Hogan-Howe welcomed the vindication but admitted that "some in the community are still angry at Mr. Duggan's death."

He added that police needed "to do more, much more, to improve our relations with black Londoners" and offered his condolences.

Duggan, a father of six then aged 29, was shot dead on August 4, 2011, as he emerged from a taxi when intercepted by police in the north London neighborhood of Tottenham.

Police said they had intelligence that he had picked up a firearm from a gang associate, who was subsequently jailed for supplying a gun. A pistol was recovered a few meters from the scene of Duggan's shooting.

During the inquest, an officer, identified only as V53, testified that he believed Duggan was holding a weapon when he shot him in his chest and an arm.

Widespread rioting

The fatal shooting led to rioting in London, Birmingham, Manchester and other English cities, resulting in five deaths and property damage worth hundreds of millions.

Images of masked youths raiding department stores, of massive fires and police clashes with rioters shocked Britons one year ahead of the London Olympic Games.

Foot-dragging?

The inquest finally began in September last year after allegations of foot-dragging. Testimony was heard from some 100 people, including pathologists.

The author of a book on the riots, Stephen Reicher - a crowd psychology expert at Scotland's University of St. Andrews - said the jury's finding risked reinforcing the sense in London's black community that the justice system was biased.

"Why is it that an unarmed young black man had to be shot?" Reicher asked.

ipj/slk (AFP, AP)

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