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Black man feared he would be killed during mistaken police stop, court told

Metropolitan Police Sergeant Emily Joshi leaves Westminster Magistrates’ Court (PA)
Metropolitan Police Sergeant Emily Joshi leaves Westminster Magistrates’ Court (PA)

A black man feared he would be “choked or killed” when he was handcuffed and bundled to the floor by police, in a case of mistaken identity over a reported robbery – as his wife and two young children screamed in panic, a court has heard.

Metropolitan Police officers Sergeant Emily Joshi, 30, of Watford, Hertfordshire, and Constable Ozan Yelken, 33, of Waltham Abbey, Essex, have both pleaded not guilty to assaulting Emmanuel Ugborokefe by beating him and are standing trial at City of London Magistrates’ Court.

It is alleged they assaulted Mr Ugborokefe, who said he “felt discriminated against” during the encounter, while stopping him in Wykeham Road, Hendon, Barnet, north-west London, on December 28 last year, the court heard on Monday.

Mr Ugborokefe was present in court but Richard Milne, prosecuting, read his statement to the judge, detailing how the complainant had travelled to London for the day with his wife and two daughters, then aged seven and eight – shopping on Oxford Street before stopping on Wykeham Road where he had arranged to collect a microwave he had purchased on eBay.

Sgt Joshi and Pc Yelken were on duty when they were called to reports of a Rolex robbery in the area, and told the court that Mr Ugborokefe, as a black man in dark-coloured clothing, matched the description of one of the suspects.

While he was waiting to meet the eBay seller, Mr Ugborokefe was approached by Sgt Joshi and Pc Yelken, with the former explaining a crime had occurred nearby and he matched the description of a suspect, body-worn video from both the officers played in court showed.

Despite protesting his innocence and repeatedly saying “don’t handcuff me”, a struggle ensued after Sgt Joshi handcuffed one of his hands, culminating in him being taken to the ground and fully handcuffed, as reinforcement officers called by Sgt Joshi arrived to help restrain him.

By this point, his wife and daughter had exited their car and were screaming in distress. Mr Ugborokefe’s wife was arrested for allegedly assaulting Sgt Joshi during the incident, the court heard.

The prosecution’s case is that the alleged assault against Mr Ugborokefe’s did not start at the point when he was first handcuffed, but they argue it started after his wife and children excited the vehicle and it became “clear he was not a suspect”, with Mr Milne saying he was subjected to an “unnecessary use of force”.

In his statement, Mr Ugborokefe claimed Sgt Joshi was “aggressive” during the encounter, adding: “I believe this incident occurred to me because of the colour of my skin.

“There was nothing I could do to make a difference, in their mind I was a criminal because of the colour of my skin.”

He said: “I told her why I was there and said I am not a criminal and not aggressive.”

On being handcuffed and taken to the floor, he added: “I became scared I was going to be choked or killed.

“I thought it was going to be the end of me and my family was watching.”

In a statement read out to court, Sgt Joshi said she was “not aware” Mr Ugborokefe’s wife and children were in the car when she approached him, saying that “at the time he looked odd and suspicious” and she suspected he was involved in the robbery.

During the struggle to handcuff him, she said she was “focused on protecting myself and my colleague” and was “fearful for my safety” due to his size and resistance.

In a statement, Pc Yelken said the claimant was “verbally resistant” to Sgt Joshi, so he “tried to deploy tactical communication to calm him down”.

He said he noticed Mr Ugborokefe was trying to put his free hand in his pocket, saying he was “concerned for our safety” as he still believed he was a robbery suspect, so he tried to bend his arm to his back but this failed because he was “too strong”, so he deployed a “tactical takedown” to put the claimant on the floor.

Ben Summers, for Sgt Joshi, told Mr Ugborokefe: “All she said was you matched the description, she did not tell you what the description was so your objection was one of principle, I suggest.”

He pointed out that Mr Ugborokefe could be seen holding his one arm up in the body-worn footage after his other wrist was handcuffed, adding: “You used force to resist their attempts to handcuff you.”

He later added: “You have accused the officer of racism on the basis of the colour of her skin.”

Nicholas Yeo, for Pc Yelken, said the defendants had been told the Rolex robbery suspects had separated and that one had gone towards Wykeham Road.

He added: “You were very much the wrong person, at the wrong place, at the wrong time and that is why the police officer made the mistake that he did.”

The trial continues.