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10 Years Ago Today, UK Police Killed an Innocent Man After Mistaking Him For a Terrorist

Jean Charles de Menezes was killed during the tense aftermath of the 7/7 London subway bombings in a case of mistaken identity. Today, his family are still fighting for justice.

by Charlotte Meredith
Jul 22 2015, 5:34pm

Photo via Andy Rain/EPA

A decade ago today, Jean Charles de Menezes got off a bus in South London to notice the station he needed to enter was closed. Stepping back onto the same bus to continue his commute he would never have known that this split-second decision contributed to his death.

Menezes, who arrived in the UK from Brazil in 2002, was killed during the tense aftermath of the 7/7 London subway bombings after police pursuing him wrongly thought he was a suspect involved in a failed bomb attack which had taken place the previous day.

Related: British Men Charged With Trying to Join Islamic State and Attack US Military

Today, family and supporters are still trying to hold British police to account for the July 22, 2005 killing of the 27-year-old, who was shot repeatedly in the head by officers in a case of mistaken identity.

Two weeks previously, four suicide bombers had attacked the London public transport system, killing 52 people and leaving the city on edge.

Officers following Menezes, who lived at the same address as two of the suspects involved, believed his behavior was suspicious after he briefly got off a bus only to reboard it after seeing the train station he wished to continue his journey from was closed. This innocent U-turn was seen as Menezes "acting in a wary manner." 

He traveled onwards to Stockwell station and as he tried to board a subway train was pinned down and shot seven times in the head and once in the shoulder in front of commuters.

Jean Charles de Menezes. Photo via Wikipedia.

The police force was fined 175,000 pounds ($274,000) in 2007 for violating health and safety rules, but no individual was ever charged after the UK's Crown Prosecution Service concluded that no police officers should be prosecuted over his death.

On Wednesday, relatives and supporters held a minute's silence at the moment Menezes was shot. A short service was held outside the south London subway station where the killing took place and flowers were laid at the foot of a mural marking his death.

Newham Monitoring Project, a grass-roots civil rights group in East London and the organizers behind the unofficial vigil, marked the 27-year-old's death on Facebook.

In a post the group wrote: "Our hearts go out to the survivors and all the relatives of those who died because of the 7/7 bombings in London. There will be no official recognition or ceremony, however, marking the brutal execution of Jean Charles de Menezes just two weeks later, on 22nd July 2005, by Metropolitan Police firearms officers at Stockwell underground station.

"We believe the tenth anniversary of Jean's death cannot and must not be forgotten. Join us from 9.30am at the mosaic outside the station and for the laying of flowers by Jean's cousins at 10.07am — exactly ten years to the minute after an innocent man was gunned down."

Related: Vandals Deface London's Memorial to 7/7 Terror Attacks

Menezes' family has brought the case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, which hasn't yet made a decision. Speaking to the BBC, his mother, Maria de Menezes, said the killing "tore my soul away".

In June, a British government lawyer argued in court that the officers who killed the victim bore no personal responsibility for his death.

Menezes' cousin, Vivian Figueiredo, said on Wednesday that she was hopeful the family would see justice. "I think we deserve it and a lot of people who are out there fighting for justice as well need this," she told the BBC.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.