A police officer who Tasered her force’s own race relations adviser after mistaking him for a suspect has told a court she “was not sure” he was the wanted man – even though she had previously met him.
Avon and Somerset acting sergeant Claire Boddie said she was trying to get Judah Adunbi to identify himself and keep him calm to stop the situation escalating, Salisbury Magistrates’ Court heard on Friday.
The 47-year-old denies assault by beating after Tasering Mr Adunbi in the face outside his Bristol home as he was walking his dog on January 14 last year.
Boddie – regarded as a well-trained officer with more than 20 years’ experience of frontline policing – said she felt the use of force was reasonable in self-defence, to defend her fellow officer Pc Darren Weston, and in order to make an arrest.
The pair approached Mr Adunbi from behind in Colston Road in the Easton area of the city and repeatedly asked him to identify himself, telling him he looked like a man they wanted to speak to, the court heard.
Mr Adunbi, a 64-year-old black African man, was a member of the force’s independent advisory group which raises policing matters which could cause the public concern.
The court heard he had been mistaken by members of the force for wanted man Royston McCalla on several occasions before and after the incident.
During the encounter, Boddie told Mr Adunbi he looked “familiar”. There was a scuffle and Mr Adunbi fell to the floor after the Taser bar hit him in the jaw, the court heard.
Giving evidence at her trial, Boddie said: “I was not sure it was Mr McCalla. I wanted to give him the opportunity to identify himself and calm him down.
“If he wasn’t Mr McCalla, then the incident would be resolved there and then. If a person is wanted [by police], very often they will deny who they are.”
She later admitted she had met McCalla during an earlier police operation, adding: “I could not say for definite that [Mr Adunbi] was or was not him.”
In a statement made after the incident, which was read to the court, she described Mr Adunbi as “hostile from the start”.
In the witness box, she described the sequence of events as “dynamic” and “volatile”, claiming Mr Adunbi was “very agitated and angry”.
In footage captured on the officers’ body-worn cameras, Mr Adunbi can be heard becoming increasingly angry. He shouts and swears, telling them to leave him alone and it is his right to withhold his identity.
He is heard shouting: “Why you coming to torment me? Go f*** off about your business and don’t follow me. Stop, stop, if you put your hand on me I’m gonna f*** you up.
“I’m not threatening you. I’m telling you if you put arms on me I’m going to defend myself. This is not the first time you have done this.”
She said she was aware that McCalla’s file had a warning for violence and weapons, so was concerned Mr Adunbi had keys in his hand.
In mobile phone footage played to the court, a bystander can be overheard shouting to police that Mr Adunbi lived nearby.
He later walked away from police and used them to unlock a gate at the back of his house.
She said: “When someone is being filmed they tend to play up. He had been [verbally] threatening my colleague and I took the keys in his hand as a threat.
“He threatened to put Pc Weston ‘to sleep’. I know that the keys could be used as a weapon.”
Mr Posner, prosecuting, said asking him the same question over and over again was not calming him down.
Boddie responded: “It doesn’t appear so, no.”
She said she “did not recall” whether she thought to ask why he was upset.
Mr Posner suggested she never intended to discharge the Taser and asked: “Did you fire the Taser and needed to justify it later?”
She responded: “No, that’s not correct.”
Mr Posner said: “He had his hands by his side. You didn’t need to use it, did you?
Boddie replied: “I believed the male was using violence to escape.”
The trial continues.