Armed officer explains second shot to Cottier inquest

A father killed by armed police was shot a second time even though he was on his knees and had dropped his weapon, an inquest heard.

On June 2, the sixth day of a three-week inquest into the death of Richard Cottier, the jury at Barking Town Hall heard from one of two officers who shot and killed him on April 9 2018.

Mr Cottier, 41, of Collier Row Road, Romford, was shot at the Esso Petrol station near his home, while experiencing what his partner of 23 years, Melissa Cottier, described as a mental health crisis.

He was shot twice after aiming an unloaded air rifle at an officer codenamed PW47; once by PW47 in the arm and again, seconds later, by officer F79 in the back.

Giving evidence anonymously, F79 told the court he neither saw nor heard his colleague shoot and was not aware that Mr Cottier had moved or dropped his weapon.

In a statement read to the court, he wrote: “I have been asked to explain how I may have shot the weapon when he was on his knees and having dropped the weapon.

“The body-worn footage shows I had a very short space of time to assess the threat posed by Mr Cottier and decide what action to take.

“I was using my green laser dot on my weapon to line up with my target and, once I had decided to fire, my total focus would have been on the green dot because I was conscious he was moving and had to maximise the chances of striking my target.

“I was not aware of PW47’s shot… (or that) the round I fired struck Mr Cottier as his body was reacting to being struck.

“The first time I was made aware that the shot I fired at Mr Cottier may have hit him in the back was when I was served a notice by the Independent Office of Police Conduct.”

Asked by the family’s legal representation to explain how he could not have noticed a gun being fired, he said: “I can only say that I was so focused on what was happening. He was aiming a gun at my colleague, my friend, I could not afford to take that risk.

“I hate to use hypotheticals but, had he had a baseball bat or a small knife or something like that, I am sure we would have given him time, distance and space to be able to negotiate.

“In this case, we were unable to do that because he did not give us that opportunity.”

Asked by coroner Nadia Persaud if he could have used non-lethal force, he said “They are not as effective as a conventional firearm, it does not have the same incapacitation.

“At that moment he was pointing a firearm at my colleague and I needed to neutralise that threat as quickly and as safely as possible. (Otherwise) it could give him a chance to shoot.

“We are trained to shoot at the (torso) which is most likely to cause the most incapacitation. Aiming at a limb or an arm is highly likely to miss because it’s a smaller target.”

F79 was also asked whether information gathered from Melissa Cottier – that she believed the gun was “fake” and unloaded – was passed on to him.

He said he was told she believed it was fake – although he was also told she “does not know much about guns” – but could not recall being told anything about ammunition.

He added that, regardless of what he had been told, officers “treated it as real because there were no other factors to treat it as a toy”.

The inquest continues.

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Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter