Man who posed no threat shot dead
Compiled from various sources
Originally published June 2007
Updates on this case will be listed at the foot of this item
A policeman murdered the unarmed driver of a stolen car by shooting him twice when it was unnecessary, it was alleged at the Old Bailey yesterday, (3rd December 1996). John Bevan, QC, prosecuting alleged that Pc Hodgson fired in panic or anger, breaking his firearms training instructions, not only on the use of guns, but the circumstances in which they could be used. These stated: “Firearms may be fired only as a last resort when other methods must have been tried and failed or are unlikely to succeed under the circumstances.”
Pc Patrick Hodgson fired at David Ewin, aged 38, even though he posed no threat to him or to bystanders said John Bevan, prosecuting. Mr Bevan said Hodgson’s partner, Pc Patrick Kelly, did not regard the scene as an armed incident and had not drawn his own gun.
David, who had traces of cannabis, cocaine and heroin in his blood and an alcohol level one and a half times the drink drive limit, was shot by Hodgson through the passenger window of a stolen Toyota car. Hodgson, aged 49, denied murdering David, who died later from internal injuries.
Mr Bevan said David may have been panicked by the sight of the gun into driving like “a maniac. Hodgson told officers investigating the incident that he had no choice but to act as he did. In a statement he said that the victim had repeatedly ignored his shouts that he was an armed officer and to give himself up and that he feared for his own life and for members of the public. He said: “I only had a split second. I fired a couple of controlled shots. I had no other option.”
As David was hit, he shouted: “You bastard, you have shot me in the stomach.” He was flown to hospital by air ambulance and was operated on, but died two weeks later.
Mr Bevan said Hodgson could have put his gun away and treated the incident as a stolen car case. Instead he shot David as a “first resort.” Mr Bevan said: “If shooting was the only option it is tantamount to saying any car thief driving recklessly may reasonably be shot by police.” He further commented: “The only danger he posed was to the bodywork of the cars around him.”
The court was told that the incident in Barnes, south-west London, began when Hodgson, Pc Kelly and Sergeant Kathryn White were on patrol in an armed response vehicle and saw the victim in the stolen car. As he tried to drive away, the police car and other vehicles boxed him in. Hodgson grabbed David on the neck as he shunted the Toyota backwards and forwards trying to escape. Hodgson tried to smash the windscreen of the Toyota with his gun butt; he was unsuccessful, and moved to the pavement side of the vehicle. He crouched down and fired two shots. When other officers arrived Hodgson allegedly told them: “Why didn’t he do as he was told? I had no choice.”
Mr Bevan said this tended to suggest that Mr Ewin was shot because he did not do as he was told, and that is not the law. He said that neither Hodgson nor anyone else was in immediate danger from Mr Ewin and that the officer had not acted in reasonable self-defence.
Pc Hodgson, the first police officer to be charged with murder while on duty was acquitted of murder and manslaughter by an Old Bailey jury on 14th October 1997. David’s mother Jean, described the verdict as outrageous. She said: “People steal cars all the time; it’s no excuse to shoot.”
The jury’s decision was all the more bewildering in light of evidence given by Hodgson’s partner. It was revealed during the trial that Pc Patrick Kelly had never drawn his gun. He had described himself as very confused and shocked because at no stage had he perceived it as an armed incident.
Pc Hodgson, who had been in the police firearms unit, SO19, since 1980, said he had never before had to fire his weapon on operational duty. He said that without exception in his experience suspects confronted by armed police gave themselves up. When he drew his gun and shouted “Armed police” he had expected David to surrender. He said that he regretted Mr Ewin’s death but repeated that he believed that he had no choice.
Police officer cleared of murder
15 October 1997