Unarmed ex-serviceman dies from fatal police gunshot to the chest
Updates on this case listed at the foot of this item
An ex-serviceman Sean Fitzgerald, aged 31, was shot dead by police officers during a so-called “pre-planned” raid on a house in Coventry on 4 January 2019 in connection with alleged Cannabis production. Two other men, both 26, were also arrested on suspicion of producing cannabis, said West Midlands police. One was bailed and another was released under investigation. All three men were said by friends to be unarmed.
A friend said Sean had served in the British army until recently. Another claimed that he was shot in the back as he tried to escape armed officers, although police denied this at a press conference soon after the killing.
Asked about the claims, assistant chief constable Sue Southern said: “From the information I have at this point, that is not my understanding. “Body-worn video has been examined and there will be a full forensic postmortem, and the findings of that will form part of the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) investigation.”
IOPC’s regional director, Amanda Rowe, said; “Our investigation is in its very early stages and we will be working hard to establish what happened. My thoughts are with the man’s family and all of those affected by this incident.
“At this stage we are looking at the circumstances of the incident and all officers remain witnesses to our investigation.”
The police watchdog then oversaw forensic examinations, carried out house to house enquiries, and were also present during a further search at the property where the shooting took place. They confirmed that no firearms were recovered from the scene.
In a statement released by the IOPC it has also been confirmed that Sean was shot as he emerged from the rear of the property while other officers were gaining entry at the front. He was pronounced dead a short time after. A later post-mortem examination revealed that he had died from a single gunshot wound to the chest.
Balloons and Chinese lanterns were let off in Coventry on the first anniversary of his death. Crowds also gathered at the graveside. The memorial saw flowers and tributes placed at his grave, along with dozens of candles. A period of silence was held.
In January 2019 a police officer was placed under investigation for shooting. Andrew Beech of the IOPC told a hearing its inquiry would examine the “decisions and actions of the police officer who fired the shot”. It would also investigate the “intelligence and operational planning” before the raid, Beech said.
The heartbroken family of Sean had reportedly been left in the dark over his killing. A relative told the press; “We don’t know anything. The police haven’t been in touch with us and we haven’t had any answers. We’re just devastated.”
Friends paid tribute to Sean. Jayson Moore said: “Sean was a completely thoughtful bloke. He spent his whole Christmas day building trampolines and playing with the kids. He did not deserve to die.”
A family member wrote online that she was “absolutely gutted” by the death, and another friend described him as a “one of a kind” who “would be there for anyone”. One, who gave his name as Ali, said he had been with the “very, very good guy” shortly before he visited the Burnaby Road property.
In January 2019 IOPC Regional Director Derrick Campbell said, “My thoughts are with Mr Fitzgerald’s family and friends at what must be an incredibly difficult time for them and all involved.
“Our investigation will focus on the actions and decision-making of the officers involved at the scene and the intelligence provided for the planning and carrying out of the operation. At this stage, we have confirmed Mr Fitzgerald was shot once in the chest by a firearms officer.
“I would like to reassure people this is an independent investigation and we will thoroughly examine all the circumstances and report our findings. I would request that everyone shows patience while the investigation progresses.”
Police officer investigated over Sean Fitzgerald shooting
10 January 2019
Sean Fitzgerald shot in the chest say investigators
8 January 2019
Man shot dead by UK police named as Sean Fitzgerald
5 January 2019