A police officer might not have shot dead an unarmed man if senior commanders had competently organised a firearms deployment, a public inquiry has found.
Father-of-two Anthony Grainger, 36, from Bolton, was behind the wheel of a stolen Audi in Culcheth, Cheshire, when a Greater Manchester Police (GMP) officer, referred to in court as Q9, fired his Heckler & Koch MP5 submachine gun.
During 15 weeks of evidence in 2017, Q9 told Liverpool Crown Court from behind a screen that he believed Mr Grainger had reached down as if to grab a firearm.
But the inquiry heard that no firearms were found on Mr Grainger or in the stationary vehicle in n a public car park off Jackson Avenue in the early evening of March 3 2012.
Grainger and one of his two passengers, David Totton, had for some weeks been the subject of a GMP operation – Operation Shire – which was investigating their suspected involvement in commercial robberies.
In his report, Judge Thomas Teague QC concluded: “Q9 shot Mr Grainger in the honestly held belief that he was reaching for a firearm with the intention of discharging it at Q9’s colleagues. That belief was, however, incorrect.
“When Mr Grainger disobeyed Q9’s instruction to show his hands, he was probably reaching for the driver’s door handle in order to get out of the Audi.
“Had GMP’s firearms commanders adopted disruption as a tactical option, as they should have done, they would have avoided the risks occasioned by decisive intervention.
“Had they planned, briefed and conducted the deployment competently, Q9 would have been less likely to misinterpret Mr Grainger’s actions and might not have shot him.”
On four out of the five days before March 3 at about the same hour, the Audi had travelled from Salford to the same part of Culcheth and back.
This activity led to the deployment of firearms officers in anticipation that the surveillance subjects were planning to stage a “hostage” robbery at commercial premises.
On the evening of March 3, a team of firearms officers attempted to arrest them in the Audi, also containing a third man, Joseph Travers.
All three men were wearing gloves and Mr Totton and Mr Travers were wearing hats that could be rolled down to form face masks.
Judge Teague pointed out there was no intelligence to suggest on this occasion they were armed or had access to firearms.
He said: “While their visit to Culcheth on March 3 was undoubtedly linked to serious crime, its purpose was probably not to commit a commercial robbery that evening. It was almost certainly in connection with a future robbery, perhaps to conduct reconnaissance or to steal a car for use in the course of such a robbery.
“Mr Grainger died because GMP failed to authorise, plan or conduct the MASTS (mobile armed support to surveillance) on March 3 in such a way as to minimise, to the greatest extent possible, recourse to the use of lethal force.”
Among the failures were:
– The force did not create or develop an accurate intelligence profile of Mr Grainger, relying instead on a profile that gave a “distorted and exaggerated view” of the nature and extent of the threat he presented.
– GMP failed to ensure all those who commanded and participated in the MASTS operation were occupationally and operationally competent to fulfil their designated roles. The inquiry heard both the tactical firearms commander and the operational firearms commander had recently failed specialist training courses.
– Commanders briefed the firearms officers incompetently in that they failed to inform there was no current intelligence to suggest any of the operation’s subjects would be armed or have access to firearms. They also wrongly briefed that one of the subjects had days earlier been in possession of a hacksaw thereby reinforcing the mistaken theory of a hostage robbery.
– Commanders failed to reappraise the intentions of the subjects after the last cash delivery of the day at the suspected target had taken place without incident, and failed to consider whether police officers should have taken immediate steps to disrupt any intended criminal activity without attempting any arrests.