Suspect dies after officer's shot to head

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 March, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 March, 2009, 12:00am

A suspected illegal immigrant who attacked a police officer with a wooden chair died in hospital last night after the constable shot him in the head at close range.

The officer shot at the middle-aged South Asian man twice after using up his pepper spray, dropping his baton and falling to the ground during the attack on a hillside in Ho Man Tin, police said.

The first shot missed but the second hit the man in the head. He was taken to Queen Elizabeth Hospital, where he died at 6.34pm.

The police officer, attached to the patrol sub-unit of Hung Hom police station, suffered injuries to his arms and back. He was discharged from hospital after treatment.

Preliminary investigations had showed the constable was justified in shooting because his life was in danger and he had exhausted all other possibilities, police said.

But the shooting brought queries from a human rights leader and a legislator about whether the situation had called for such a level of violence.

Police were called to the scene shortly before 1pm when a woman complained about a man urinating on the hillside opposite Lok Man Sun Chuen.

The constable, the first officer to arrive, reached the scene by motorcycle at 12.52pm, ran up the hill alone and stopped the man for an identity check.

The man said he did not have an identity card and attempted to leave.

When the officer tried to intercept him, the man turned around and punched him. The constable used his pepper spray but the man picked up a wooden chair and attacked him.

'Our officer then drew out his baton but he dropped it. He then used his pepper spray again. The spray was used up, but the man did not stop and continued to attack our officer,' a police source said.

'He was forced to step back and fell on to the ground when the man kept using the chair to beat him.

'After the repeated warnings were ignored, the officer sitting on the ground fired two shots at close range. The first shot missed and the second shot hit the head of the suspect.'

Police said the constable had pressed the emergency button on his police walkie-talkie during the attack.

The deputy Kowloon City district commander, Senior Superintendent Wong Chun-chin, said he believed opening fire was the only option the officer had after all other possible force had failed to stop the suspect.

'Further inquiries will be needed to determine whether opening fire was justified. We require further inquiries,' he said. 'So far, the circumstances suggest that the safety of the officer was in jeopardy.'

Police said no identity document was found on the man and officers were investigating whether he had been living on the hillside.

Black rubbish bags, a red sofa and fruit were found scattered on the ground, while four bags of items, socks, a jacket and a basketball were found hanging on a tree.

Hong Kong Human Rights monitor director Law Yuk-kai said the case was 'a bit strange' as the officer had shot the man in the head, rather than elsewhere on his body.

Lawmaker James To Kun-sun said an officer in such a situation should think of trying to escape instead of opening fire.

'It is not an action of a coward, but a way to protect himself without using unnecessary force,' Mr To said.

Tony Liu Kit-ming, chairman of the Hong Kong Police Inspectors Association, said police were trained to shoot at the biggest body mass of an attacker, rather than the head or limbs.

Kowloon City district councillors said the scene of the shooting was a remote area seldom visited by nearby residents.