The shooting of Nathaniel Brophy in Britxon on 21 August 2015 initially caused substantial furore. Another Black man shot by the Met. Another Duggan. Not only that it occurred on the very anniversary of the death of Sean Rigg, who died at the hands of Brixton police. Other anniversaries crucially close to this date included the local shootings of both Cherry Groce and Jean Charles de Menezes, as well as Mark Duggan. Perhaps this substantial, indeed, major conjunction of anniversaries where people have died at the hands of police is one reason why attempts have been made to mute the Brophy incident?
Brophy is of mixed race, he has a Black father hence the shooting of any Black person or their siblings is outrageous as it strongly indicates the the mechanism of institutional racism is still pervading. In this case Brixton has been where the Met’s lowest denominations have regularly damaged relations with the Black community – whose peoples can almost sense the force’s institutional racism in the air.
Besides race, what is perhaps worse about the Brophy shooting is Nathaniel was also disabled. This is a subject that is barely touched upon, nor is it even appreciated within the context of the shooting by the Met Police. The matter of his disability made things worse and this, crucially, is where cops messed up again and another possible reason why the Met has been silent on the matter.
Nathaniel Brophy – Source: Guardian
The Met Police regularly claims its officers are well versed in disability issues, handling disabled people and treating suspects fairly because of their disabilities. Its very much the same as its claim to regard Blacks and other ethnic minorities as citizens who deserve equal and fair treatment, contrary to the charge of institutional racism.
The hammer attack on Brophy
First of all one must understand Brophy’s disabilities and how this could have clouded the Met’s stance, and his eventual getting shot.
Scene of the hammer attack at Emmanuel Road, Tooting Common. Source: Googlemaps
Nathaniel was a normal, successful guy who had everything going for him, he had become a father too. Late one afternoon on his way home he was attacked with a hammer by the side of Tooting Common, not far from his home in Tilson Gardens. The date was 4th October 2010 and the time 5pm. He was hospitalised in a critical condition and ultimately suffered major brain injuries. This caused speech difficulties and paralysis.
The assailants were never found despite apparently having conducted another attack in the same road a few weeks later.
Nathaniel lost his job because he had to give up driving. His relationship also ended, and ultimately his home in Tilson Gardens, South London, was taken from him. He was too proud to go on benefits, but perhaps also realised the welfare system as a result of Tory reforms was by now quite pitted against preventing disabled people making fair progress in life.
When the Metropolitan housing association forcibly evicted Nathaniel for rent arrears, they did not change the flat’s locks. Brophy was simply able to use the keys he still possessed to retrieve some belongings that had been left behind.
This took place on the 21st August 2015 and that is where the Metropolitan Police came in. One report does tell us Nathaniel had ‘broken’ into the flat and the Metropolitan Housing were alerted. They in turn informed the police.
Both police and the representative from Metropolitan Housing entered the flat and claim they spotted Nathaniel brandishing a gun. They immediately withdrew and called in police back up as well as the SCO19 firearms unit.
Met Police in attendance at the Tilson Gardens siege, Clapham Park/Brixton
The Met’s claims
Nathaniel was shot three times (it is said there were in fact four shots, one missed Brophy) One of the shots hit him in the back. This occurred after a seven-hour seige by police.
The police claim he was shot outside the flat however some witnesses suggest he was brought out of the flat unconscious so it appears he could have been shot just inside the flat. The Met’s SCO19 team had taken over a flat opposite as it offered firearms officers a good sightline to Brophy’s flat.
The Met claim they were threatened by the suspect. Perhaps they couldnt understand him so they felt threatened. This is an amazing insight! It regularly happens in most police forces – someone who does not quite seem… erm… can’t communicate, doesn’t look white enough, looks like, erm a gangster or something in that kind of ken – all these confusing factors means its police trigger pull time.
Nathaniel was shot in the back which suggests he was not even threatening. The Met had claimed he was threatening and indeed had evacuated other flat occupiers in the block because they alleged there was a dangerous man on the loose with a gun.
Police attendance at Tilson Gardens. Source: South London Press
Shooting off at others – the police’s narrow minded perceptions
Nathaniel Brophy had communication difficulties as we earlier saw. The next is an exposition upon what those with such difficulties regularly face from police – it is fair to say police bias was responsible for the mess that ensued.
Many deaf people (or non-verbals) in the US and elsewhere, who have been shot by police – simply because they looked threatening and did not respond in the way police had expected (in other words a very nicely toned, polite, excellently phrased ‘Hi officer, it is nice to see you, I am deaf/can’t speak. I am absolutely no trouble to you so please do not shoot me.’)
The fact is police are inherently and institutionally a speaking body; a being-in-a-body-of-speech situation. Rather like that being-in-the-world sort of thing. Not Das Man (daesin) but Speech Man (says-it). In other words they can’t snap out of it. They can’t imagine themselves as other than being hearing or speaking entities or being in the shoes of a disabled person for that matter.
The ‘fact’ that no correct ‘response’ was got by police from these victims listed in the following examples had to mean they were planning an atrocity of some sort which would result in an infliction of death.
Some examples of these atrocities – there are so many!
1) Deaf Black woodcarver shot by Seattle police 2) Deaf Black man shot in Detroit 3) Quite a few cases mentioned at Please Dont Shoot Us! 4) Florida deaf man who shouts becos he cant hear his voice is gunned down. As some of these reports clearly tell us, police are not concerned in the least about disability when they pull the trigger.
Clearly weak and defenceless people going down must be a powerful sight for these cops. Its clear the officer’s mind perceives events in a manner that’s far removed from reality.
One ex SCO19 officer recounted his experiences of what life is like in the firearms unit: “The human mind fills in the gaps and perceptions of time, space and sound are distorted. ‘I can remember being in situations when whole sentences formed in my mind at a speed at which I could never have spoken them, in the gap between shot three and shot four.”
Of course decisions must be taken in a split second. Still, in the case of Brophy the cops messed it up…
The Met regularly claims it has training regarding disabled, learning disabilities, mental health, but invariably it fails on hurdles. It has constantly made claims over the last 15 years or so it is improving officer training in relation to autism, learning disabilities and so on… But each year produces very testing events that are clearly proof this so-called police training and awareness is woefully ineffective.
Its highly plausible there was barely any conversation between the police and Brophy. This would certainly be the case if Brophy couldnt communicate with the police properly.
Nathaniel Brophy must have been scared. I would have been. So would anyone else. Police out there with guns, their minds set within biased parameters.
Identify, Capability, Intent and Immediacy. A consist of all four means there is a credible risk. Full details of the police’s planning & deployment techniques are here.
Identity: Are the targets visible/their location known? (In this case it would have been the police, they were totally obvious to anyone at Tilson Gardens)
Capability: Can they do it? (Have the suspects got weapons or are these easily accessed?)
Intent: Means to do it (For example, draw a gun and shoot)
Immediacy: Are their targets available and at risk? (This would be the police, or anybody else within range of a shooter. The police turned up at Tilson Gardens so they made themselves part of the risk)
Was there a credible risk with Brophy? That would be quite possible – however the fact the police turned up in droves and armed to the teeth would have increased the risk of a shoot out.
The question is, who was creating the risk? Was it Brophy or the Met Police?
Let us consider:
If a man plays with a gun in the middle of woods and is shooting at cans, is he a risk to anyone? He certainly knows where his targets are but its not a credible risk of any sort.
If someone enters the woods are those people at risk? Its quite possible they could be a risk, but if the man hasn’t made any moves at them or shouted out ‘I’m going to blow your fucking heads off’ then there can’t reasonably be a risk.
Of course the man may not show any intent to shoot at anything other than his cans – but anyone nearby would have to exercise caution and entertain the slight possibility there was a risk even though they could see the man’s preferred target was simply a string of cans sat upon a tree branch.
Now let’s assume the same man is shooting birds instead. Down they come one by one. Is that a credible risk to say, a party of ramblers walking by? Well that is very difficult to decide isnt it! Not really – both would get on with what they are doing, and just ignore the other side.
Let’s say all these ramblers, twelve of them, were armed to the teeth. Who is the potential risk then? The one solitary bird shooter or the twelve ramblers?
Let’s say the bird shooter continues his hobby whilst the ramblers walk by in military style, rifles held fast to the shoulder. No risk then…
Suddenly the ramblers turn and twelve rifles face the bird shooter. Now what does it look like? Who’s potentially at risk?
Okay. Where was the risk with Brophy?
Had he shouted that he was going to kill any cops who came near him?
Did he know who his targets were? Well one could say the police made themselves the immediacy factor. It could be said they temptingly made themselves a shooting gallery.
Did Brophy have the capability? Well he hadnt fired a shot at anybody. We know that. He may have had the capability but it did not mean he was a risk of any sort.
Obviously Brophy knew his targets’ ID. He knew who they were – the Metropolitan Police. They put themselves there. We can say they increased the risks, not Brophy.
It is said Brophy had a BB gun. Its used in sports. Its not a real killer weapon although it can kill in the right circumstances (same thing as a ice block that happens to fall from a plane onto someone.)
It seems to me Brophy didnt have the intent nor the desire to shoot anyone. He may have just picked up the gun from a drawer and was carrying it to a bag when he was spotted by the one police officer and the housing official.
These strange coincidences do happen. For example someone walks into a room unexpectedly and it LOOKS like someone who is already in there is doing something totally different to what they’re actually doing!
Doing the right thing at the wrong time/being in the right place at the wrong time etc.
It seems once again the Met were the risk, not Nathaniel Brophy.
These are our instructions….
Police placed some of its SCO19 officers in another flat opposite at Bourke Close as it had a good view of the siege area. It also gave a good direct view towards 109 Tilson House which was Brophy’s flat. Officers watched from there and allegedly told Brophy to ‘come outside, we are concerned about your well being.’ Clearly Brophy complied. As soon as he appeared at the doorway he was shot by a SCO19 officer stationed at Bourke Close.
Prior to the shooting Nathaniel’s dad, Patrice Duval, had been informed of the ongoing situation and was urged to come and try to talk his son into leaving the flat quietly. For whatever reasons, it is absolutely clear this did not happen. The police clearly were not patient enough.
A number of residents were moved out of their flats as the siege drew on. Although the siege ended at 4.45pm it was well after midnight when residents were allowed back into their homes. Two residents complained they were forced to stay outside for hours without their much needed medication, and one ended up needing an ambulance to take them to hospital.
The aftermath – the gun
It is not known if Nathaniel was indeed in possession of a gun. His father says he wasnt, and further says they are a quiet family. Nathaniel has never been in trouble with the police before. Indeed two of their relatives are themselves Met Police officers.
The notion that a gun was involved can only remain as a testimony by both the Met Police and Met Housing officials who both claim they saw Brophy with one.
As the IPCC indicated in a press release discussing the case, a gun was found at the scene after the shooting had taken place. This was identified as a BB – a gas powered gun that ‘was loaded and resembled a handgun.’
People have queried the gun’s presence. How did it get there. Did it have Brophy’s fingerprints on it? Was it planted? None of those questions have been answered.
Nathaniel’s family are of the opinion their son wasn’t one to go round brandishing guns. Further Nathaniel had conducted his life with great restraint and patience despite an awful hammer attack, even though he lost a lot in that process and had been disabled. Doesnt exactly look like someone hell bent on destruction…
What the IPCC has publicised so far re the Brophy Case
The aftermath – IPCC
The IPCC were alerted re the incident and claims no police were able to compare notes or agree on standard statements. That is questionable for the amount of time between the shooting and the IPCC turning up on the scene was around about three hours. Officers clearly had ample time to ‘compare notes’ prior to the IPCC’s arrival.
The IPCC brought up an aspect of the shooting in October 2015. They announced the body cams worn by the armed SCO19 officers were ineffective. They publicly advised the Met it needed to look at these again and consider a different position for the equipment or even a new type of body cam.
What did these body cams actually film? As one source claims, the footage mostly showed officers’ boots.
The missing video evidence means far less facts to go on. The police could say pretty much what they want to the IPCC. There is a professional code of ethics which covers amongst many things, truth and integrity – but let’s face it, rules are meant to be broken…
The aftermath – community relations
Each time meetings were set up to ‘discuss’ the shooting and its possible effects upon the Black community (as well as other locals) the Met organised these with extremely short notice.
The first was on 27th August 2015 at the Kings Avenue Community Resource Centre (see Michael Richmond tweets) the father of Brophy was in attendance as were the IPCC and Metropolitan Housing as well as an officer from firearms unit SCO19 as well as the Met’s Lambeth Borough Commander Richard Wood.
The next meeting was on 8th September at the Stockwell Community Resource Centre. It does not seem that Brophy’s disability was mentioned much at these meetings. The racial aspect was of course the more important matter.
It is not known if there were any further community meetings. Certainly after these two initial community meetings the entire case headed for a clamp down. Even Brophy’s court appearances were extremely muted.
For a number of weeks after Brophy’s ID was kept secret (although it was locally known). During September 2015 both the Daily Mirror and the Guardian published his ID.
This tweet from Lee Jasper shows his despair at the lack of information from the IPCC:
If the police choose to place an embargo on the matter or are economical with the truth then it is left to us to speculate on the possibilities, and that happens to be once again the police’s fault.
The aftermath – sentencing
Brophy was ‘arrested’ immediately after the shooting and placed in hospital under police guard. As soon as he was well enough he was formally charged. His first appearance in court at Southwark was on 14th October 2015 – the Met made sure they announced the fact he was being charged with possession of firearms.
Met Police announces Brophy’s court attendance & charges – 14 Oct 2015
The next court sitting at Soutwark was 28 Oct 2015. The Met made no announcement of this. However a search at thelawpages.com will bring up the relevant details:
Nathaniel Brophy listings for Southwark crown court (from www.thelawpages.com)
Brophy’s third appearance at Southwark was on 15 December 2015. Absolutely no mention was made apart from a short tweet generated by InCourts‘ bot. The full listings for Brophy at Southwark court can be found by searching thelawpages.
This is an auto-generated tweet confirming Brophy’s attendance at Southwark on 15 December:
Currently it is not know where Brophy is being held, or what charges were finally decided whilst the length of incarceration or any other punishment is also unknown.
**Note: SCO19 is described as SC&O19 by the Met Police.
Nathaniel Brophy, who was shot on his doorstep by police, has admitted brandishing a BB gun as he left his home.
— CourtNewsUK (@CourtNewsUK) March 29, 2016
Former delivery driver shot by police after twice pointing a BB gun at officers jailed for 16 months.
— CourtNewsUK (@CourtNewsUK) May 20, 2016
These news reports (March/May 2016) even the courts have hardly touched upon what I have related here.
It is clear Brophy was held in hospital for much of the time and as soon as he was well enough was sent for a full trial. This resulted in his being jailed for 18 months.