Sleeping boy killed in Birmingham police raid
all credits: The BBC
Originally published: August 1985
Any news updates on this case will be listed at the foot of this item
A five-year-old boy was shot dead in a police raid on his home in Birmingham. John Shorthouse was killed after armed officers stormed into his home looking for his father, also named John. The boy was shot in the chest as an officer searched under his bed. He was carried to a police car and taken to a nearby hospital but pronounced dead on arrival.
The officer whose gun fired the fatal shot has been suspended pending the outcome of an inquiry. He has not been named but is said to be a 36-year old constable with 16-years service in the West Midlands force.
At the time of the shooting John Shorthouse is believed to have been asleep in bed. Officers thought they had accounted for all the family who they were holding in another room.
The Assistant Chief Constable of West Midlands, Paul Leopold said he believed the marksman involved had been unaware of John’s presence. “Other officers had been in the room before this officer and they had no idea anybody was in there,” he said.
After being arrested at his home, John Shorthouse Snr, 26, was taken to south Wales where he was wanted for questioning about an armed robbery. Mr and Mrs Shorthouse, who have two other sons, aged four and two, called for a public inquiry into their eldest child’s death.
The local MP, Anthony Beaumont-Dark, also demanded that any report on the shooting should be made public.
The shooting of John Shorthouse was the latest in a number of incidents involving police marksmen. Five years ago, a pregnant woman, Gail Kinchen, was killed after she got caught up in gun fire between her boyfriend and the police.
Feelings in the area ran high after the shooting. Hostility towards the police boiled over two days after John’s death when a policewoman was dragged from her patrol car and beaten up by youths.
In 1986 the officer who shot John Shorthouse, PC Brian Chester, stood trial for manslaughter but was acquitted.
Following the Shorthouse case, West Midlands police abandoned its practice of training rank-and-file officers for firearms duties and formed a specialist squad.