Greater Manchester Police is to blame for the fatal shooting of an unarmed father-of-two, an inquiry has found.
Anthony Grainger, 36, was killed by an armed officer known only as Q9 in an operation in a car park in the village of Culcheth, near Warrington, in March 2012.
He was one of three men in a red Audi, and officers believed they were planning an armed robbery.
But the police intelligence was flawed, their operation was botched – and after the shooting, officers did not follow proper procedures, the inquiry found.
The chairman of the public inquiry said police lacked the necessary degree of operational competence.
Within moments of the armed units moving in to apprehend the suspects just before 7pm, Q9 had shot Mr Grainger.
He had seen him lower his arm and mistakenly thought Mr Grainger was reaching for a firearm. No weapons were found in the vehicle.
The inquiry concluded: Q9 shot Mr Grainger in the honestly held belief that he was reaching for a firearm with the intention of discharging it at Q9’s colleagues. That belief was, however, incorrect.
When Mr Grainger disobeyed Q9’s instruction to show his hands, he was probably reaching for the driver’s door handle in order to get out of the Audi.
The inquiry laid bare a series of failings in GMP’s intelligence gathering and sharing: Q9’s mistaken belief that Mr Grainger was about to discharge a firearm was based on the inaccurate and inadequate briefing he had received that morning.
That he jumped to the wrong conclusion is partly his own fault and partly the fault of his commanders whose incompetent planning and slipshod briefing directly contributed to his faulty appreciation of the facts.
The findings laid bare a culture within the GMP firearms unit at the time: It was an ethos rooted in complacency and it manifested itself… in a profound and sometimes arrogant disdain for the views of others.
As late as 2017, after the inquiry hearing had concluded the TFU (Tactical Firearms Unit) remained incapable of exercising genuinely objective judgement in relation to its own conduct and that of its officers.
Judge Teague QC said that the unit did not sustain the consistently high level of professionalism that the public is entitled to expect from a specialised armed unit, adding: It was neither as good as it should have been nor as good as some of its commanders thought it was.
Unfortunately there are indications that it persists to the present day.
The findings went on to criticise the teams for using an unauthorised CS gas canister in the operation that officers deployed into the vehicle.
The inquiry judge described it as an entirely unsuitable munition which should not have been authorised for use in this or any other operation.
Authorities have been told to examine whether GMP committed an offence by illicitly acquiring the canister.
Q9 had also been on duty for more than 14 hours.
The judge concluded: I regard that period as excessive and am unable to exclude the possibility that fatigue had, by then, degraded Q9’s ability to make accurate decisions in a critical situation.
Had they planned, briefed and conducted the deployment competently, Q9 would have been less likely to misinterpret Mr Grainger’s actions and might not have shot him.
Q9 did not act out of malice, nor did he panic. He made a catastrophic but genuine mistake, the roots of which lay mainly – but not exclusively – in the ineptitude with which his superiors had planned and briefed that day’s operation.
He and his fellow AFOs [Authorised Firearms Officers] were badly let down by their commanders.
The judge made nine recommendations, including a call for more openness and transparency following the discharge of a police firearm and for firearms officers to be equipped with body-worn video cameras as is now common practice for regular officers.
Mr Grainger’s partner, Gail Hadfield-Grainger, said in a statement: This devastating report show that Anthony’s death was caused by a litany of catastrophic failures by Greater Manchester Police in 2012.
It could and should have been prevented. It also exposes, that even now in 2019, Greater Manchester Police is unfit to control firearms operations.
A spokesman for GMP said the force understands the heart-breaking effect of the incident on the family and offered its condolences.
It said its officers never set out with the intention of firearms being discharged and that the safety of everyone affected by its operations is the absolute priority.
It said changes had been made since the shooting and that it will now consider what more can be done.
Mr Grainger’s mother, Marina Schofield, has told Sky News how she wants officers to be held to account for her son’s death and has called for the CPS to examine whether criminal charges could follow.