Family of man shot dead by police consider legal challenge after jury finds he was ‘lawfully killed’

Hassan Yahya, a 30 year old Black man, was lawfully killed when he was shot by a City of London police officer  (Inquest)
Hassan Yahya, a 30 year old Black man, was lawfully killed when he was shot by a City of London police officer (Inquest)

The family of a man suffering from paranoid schizophrenia who was shot dead by police after being caught with two knives in central London are considering a legal challenge after an inquest jury found he was “lawfully killed” by a firearms officer.

Hassan Yahya, 30, was shot by City of London police officer (CoLP), named BX222, close to Whitehall before being placed in handcuffs on 8 March 2020.

His inquest heard two Ministry of Defence Police (MODP) officers conducting mobile patrols in a marked police vehicle on Upper Ground came across Mr Yahya at 11.20pm.

They left their vehicle to speak to him, thinking he may be lost, the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) said.

But Mr Yahya produced two knives and both officers fired their Tasers without hitting him. He fled across Hungerford Bridge onto Great Scotland Yard in Westminster, where a CoLP officer discharged his Taser again without effect.

The IOPC said CCTV footage showed Mr Yahya “stepping towards officers, holding a knife” when BX222 fired the fatal shot at around 11.34pm.

He was placed in handcuffs and given emergency first aid by the officers but Mr Yahya was pronounced dead at the scene at 12.16am.

His inquest heard he was in possession of two knives which were recovered at the scene.

His family said Hassan made no attempts to harm any members of the public but was shot within seconds by another armed City of London officer “in fear of his life”, according to IOPC.

His mental health condition was unknown to the police.

His family insist that there wasn’t sufficient evidence to show that the officers were in imminent danger at the point he was killed.

The inquest heard evidence from consultant psychiatrist, Dr Akenzua, that Hassan suffered with paranoid schizophrenia for a number of years, had been prematurely discharged from mental health care services, and that it was likely that his paranoid schizophrenia was responsible for his actions on 8 March 2020.

Ifeanyi Odogwu, representing Mr Yahya’s family, put to BX221 - the officer who claimed he fired his Taser at the same time as the fatal gunshot - that Mr Yahya “did not stand a chance” once he was confronted. The officer replied saying he “did not agree”.

Asked if Mr Yahya looked “frightened”, BX221 replied “yes”.

After hearing evidence over a two-week period, the Senior Coroner directed the jury to return a short form conclusion of Lawful Killing and that no other issues could have caused or contributed to the death.

According to Inquest, a charity representing the family, the Tactical Firearms Advisor accepted that he ruled out the possibility that Mr Yahya should be considered emotionally or mentally distressed, despite his behaviour seeming odd.

An Inquest spokesperson added that even though the incident was declared a ‘Trojan stop only’, meaning that only authorised firearm officers should intervene, two unarmed MPS officers did not follow this direction. One of those officers accepted that his involvement may have escalated the situation.

Mr Yahaya’s family described him as “very funny” and “not one to fight with others or to complain”.

His uncle has fond memories of playing football together when they were young and reconnecting when they found each other again as adults in the UK.

Police activity in Great Scotland Yard, London, on 9 March close to where Mr Yayha was shot dead by police after brandishing two knives at officers (Yui Mok/PA Wire)
Police activity in Great Scotland Yard, London, on 9 March close to where Mr Yayha was shot dead by police after brandishing two knives at officers (Yui Mok/PA Wire)

Speaking on behalf of the family, El-Tahir Adam, said: “It was terrible to lose Hassan in this way, and we have had to be very patient and wait for the inquest to take place.

“I had hoped that we would get some answers from the inquest process, but I feel very disappointed with how the Coroner has conducted this investigation despite the best efforts of my legal team who I wish to thank.

“Hassan was not well and extremely vulnerable, but he did not harm anyone, and I believe that there were opportunities for the police to recognise that and treat him differently.”

He added: “BX222, the officer who shot Hassan did so extremely quickly after he got out of the car. It was a matter of seconds, and I don’t believe he could have assessed Hassan that quickly.”

IOPC regional director Charmaine Arbouin said: “Our thoughts remain with the family and loved ones of Hassan Yahya and everyone affected by his death.

“Fatal police shootings are fortunately rare and lethal force must only be used when absolutely necessary. When such incidents happen, it’s vital that the circumstances surrounding the shooting are thoroughly and independently examined.

“During the course of the officers’ interactions with Mr Yahya, they made numerous attempts to apprehend him using non-lethal force – including multiple discharges of Taser over a five-minute period, which proved ineffective.

“The officer who shot Mr Yahya said he feared for his life as Mr Yahya moved toward him while holding two knives. Our investigation reviewed all available CCTV footage which showed Mr Yahya stepping towards officers, holding a knife, when he was then fatally shot.

“Based on the available evidence, we found that the decision to shoot Mr Yahya was reasonable in the circumstances, due to the threat the officer perceived to his life.”

The City of London Police have been approached for comment.