UK police Tasered black man they mistook for robber - he was their race-relations adviser

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 January, 2017, 12:18pm
UPDATED : Monday, 23 January, 2017, 5:43pm

The British police watchdog has launched an investigation after officers Tasered a race-relations adviser who has worked to improve links between the force and the black community in Bristol.

Judah Adunbi, 63, was Tasered by police outside his home in the city on January 14 when officers mistook him for a wanted man.

Video footage recorded by a neighbour shows police scuffling with Adunbi as he tries to get though the gate of his home in the Easton area. He falls to the ground after a Taser is discharged. Adunbi said later he thought he was going to die.

Adunbi has sat on Bristol’s independent advisory group, which is designed to forge links between the police and the community, and has also worked with the Crown Prosecution Service’s local community involvement panel.

Avon and Somerset police voluntarily referred the matter to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). It said the incident was also captured on the officers’ body cameras.

The neighbour’s video shows two police officers speaking to Adunbi on the street. He can be heard refusing to give them his name. “I’ve done no wrong,” he tells them. “Leave me alone.”

They tell him they believe him to be someone they are looking for - a robbery suspect- and there is a clash as he tries to get into the gate of his home. A Taser is then discharged and one of the officers says: “Taser, Taser, Taser. You’ve been Tasered. All right?”

Adunbi, who is black and has long dreadlocks, falls to the ground and the neighbour who is filming protests. One of the officers tells the neighbour: “He was trying to fight us.” The neighbour replies that they started it and he was simply trying to get into his home.

Adunbi, who was walking his pet dog, Hazel when he encountered the officers, said he feared for his life. “I felt that was it. Because of the way I fell back. The way I fell backward on the back of my head. I was just paralysed. I thought that was it. I thought they were taking my life,” he said.

Adunbi said he felt humiliated during the incident on Saturday. “At first, you don’t accuse someone of being someone else. You ask questions. The first thing they should have done is come to me in a polite manner. The way they approached me – they were accusing me. That is wrong.”

He added: “It’s a little distasteful in my mouth. To know that one of the founder members of the independent advisory group which was created some years ago in order to improve the relationship between the Afro-Caribbean community and the constabulary and to be treated like this, it’s difficult.”

Chief Superintendent Jon Reilly, of Avon and Somerset police, said: “I understand the community are going to have concerns. And we’d really like to answer those. But as there’s an ongoing investigation that’s very difficult for us to do.

“I want to reassure the community the whole incident was captured on body-worn camera. Both officers were wearing it. And we’re determined to understand what happened. That’s why we’ve referred it, voluntarily, to the Independent Police Complaints Commission for them to assess whether an independent review is necessary. We work really hard to work positively with all communities and I see no reason why that should change.”

The force said independent advisory groups were a way for communities to work with the police to help improve its service. They advised on policing issues that may cause concern to local people and communities.

IAG members are volunteers from various backgrounds. They have an interest in policing and its effect on communities, and offer independent advice.

Adunbi told on Friday how he had suffered sleepless nights since the incident. He also claimed he went through a similar ordeal in 2007 in another case of mistaken identity by police.

His neighbour Tom Cherry, 39, who filmed officers confronting Adunbi, said their actions were an “unjustified and disproportionate use of force”.

Adunbi was initially charged with assaulting a constable in the execution of their duty and using threatening or abusing behaviour or disorderly behaviour likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress. The charges have since been dropped.