A former Scotland Yard firearms officer, who shot dead an armed drug dealer in north London 10 years ago, has been cleared of murder.
An Old Bailey jury found Anthony Long, 58, not guilty of murdering Azelle Rodney during an operation to foil an attempt to rob Colombian drug dealers in north London in 2005.
Mr Rodney & two other criminals had been under surveillance & police intelligence suggested the gang was armed with at least one machine gun as they prepared to strike the Colombians.
PC Long was part of a Specialist Firearms team brought in to stop the Volkswagen Golf that Azelle Rodney & the other two men were travelling in.
The firearms team pulled over the men's car in Hale Lane, Edgware, north London at 7:43pm on 30 April, in a manoeuvre known as a "hard stop" where a vehicle is boxed in by police cars to force it to a halt.
The Old Bailey was told that Anthony Long opened fire as his car pulled up alongside the VW Golf, shooting Azelle Rodney six times.
The Crown Prosecution Service charged the now retired officer with murder after judicial inquiry in 2013 found that PC Long had no lawful justification for opening fire.
During the Old Bailey trial, prosecutors claimed the officer fired eight shots in 2.1 seconds, six of which hit Mr Rodney who was the back seat passenger in the Golf.
The Crown claimed that, in making the split-second decision to open fire, the officer would not have had time to see whether Mr Rodney was doing anything that might pose a risk to the public & police.
However, the jury believed Mr Long's assertion that he perceived a threat to himself & his colleagues when he opened fire.
The court was told that in a subsequent search of the Golf, officers discovered three handguns.
Afterwards, Mr Long said he was "very grateful" to the jury for their verdict, adding: "It has been very difficult facing trial for something that happened 10 years ago when I had acted to protect the lives of others as part of my job & based on my training & experience.
"Police firearms officers do not go out intending to shoot people and, like me in this case, have to make split-second life or death decisions based on the information available to them at the time."Â
The verdict is a bitter blow for Azelle Rodney's family, who have campaigned for years for someone to be held accountable for his death.
After the verdict, Mr Rodney's mother Susan Alexander repeated her view that her son's death was "wholly avoidable", adding that she would, nevertheless, accept the jury's verdict.
She added: "Now that the jury has done its job, my family & I have to draw a painful line under the last 10 years. I need some time to myself to grieve properly for the loss of my 24-year-old son."
Mr Long was a highly-decorated firearms veteran who helped establish Scotland Yard's elite firearms unit.
He was commended for his bravery in 1985 after shooting & wounding a hostage-taker who was trying to stab a young girl in Northolt, west London.
Two years later, Mr Long helped foil an armed robbery on a payroll delivery at an abattoir in south east London.
He shot dead two of the robbers & wounded a third. A subsequent inquiry cleared him of any wrongdoing.
Source: “Sky News”