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Marksman 'convinced' of threat


Azelle Rodney was shot on the evening of April 30 2005

Azelle Rodney was shot on the evening of April 30 2005

Azelle Rodney was shot on the evening of April 30 2005

A police marksman told jurors he was "absolutely convinced" suspected armed robber Azelle Rodney posed an imminent threat before he shot him six times in just 2.1 seconds.

Specialist firearms officer Anthony Long, 58, said he saw Mr Rodney duck down in the back of a car and spring back up again in what seemed to him to be a "totally unnatural movement".

Long told the Old Bailey he could not see a gun but that he believed Mr Rodney had picked one up and that his colleagues were in danger.

Asked by his lawyer Ian Stern QC why he opened fire, Long said: "Because I was absolutely convinced that he'd ducked down, picked up a firearm, that he posed an imminent threat to my colleagues."

Now-retired officer Long is on trial at the Old Bailey accused of murdering Mr Rodney on the evening of Saturday April 30 2005 in Hale Lane, Mill Hill, north London.

The court had heard Mr Rodney was in the back of the Volkswagen Golf, with two men in the front.

The Metropolitan Police had received information that the car contained firearms - possibly a machine gun - and the occupants were on their way to commit an armed robbery.

The officer in charge gave the order for the firearms team to be dispatched to make a "hard stop", forcing the Golf to a halt by boxing it in with four unmarked police vehicles.

Long, who was the front-seat passenger in the unmarked vehicle which came alongside the Golf, opened fire on Mr Rodney at short range and in quick succession through an open window with his police-issue Heckler and Koch G36C Carbine.

The defendant told the court today that he was "very conscious" of the danger involved in the operation, and said he was caused "grave concern" when the rear seat passenger - Mr Rodney - was turning around.

He said his view was "very clear" and he remembers being "very close" to the vehicle, adding: "It was like looking at a TV screen."

Long said he was focused on the rear seat passenger, and said: "I saw him look to his left, I saw him look to his right, and then he ducked down."

He then sprang back up again, Long said. "It seemed a totally unnatural movement to me. I couldn't get my head around what he was doing."

The defendant said, that to him, the passenger's "whole body language" looked like he was about to use a weapon.

Under cross examination, Long said that in those scenarios the majority of suspects will "freeze".

He insisted he "absolutely followed the guidance" he should have been working under.

Long said his team had been told that a "gang of predominantly Afro-Caribbean" men were planning to rob Columbian drug dealers and that the suspects would have access to fully automatic weapons.

Speaking about the involvement of such weapons, Long said: "It ups the ante."

He told the court that at one point, prior to the hard stop, there was surveillance communications that said one of the suspects was wearing a three-quarter length coat - something that caused concern as the "obvious conclusion" was that they were trying to conceal something underneath.

The court heard Long joined the police in 1975 and was due to retire in August 2005 but stayed until November 2008.

He became a firearms instructor in 1983 and worked in that role until the very end of his time with the Metropolitan Police.

He told the court he was sent abroad on several occasions to provide training to other forces in countries such as Sweden, Republic of Ireland and Jamaica.

Long, who has given an address in Leatherhead, denies murder.

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