British armed police shoot dead unarmed cannabis grower, Sean Fitzgerald, in the back.

British armed police shoot dead unarmed cannabis grower, Sean Fitzgerald, in the back.

By Richard Shrubb

A 31-year-old man fatally shot by police during a botched cannabis raid in Coventry has been named as ex-soldier Sean Fitzgerald.

During the First World War, a US senator famously said, “The first casualty, when war comes, is the truth.” So it appears in the case of the Coventry drugs raid on Friday night. Here is what is known:

A warrant to raid the property at 6.20 pm on Friday night. The police called it part of an ‘intelligence-led operation’, which considering intelligence is a scarce enough thing in your average police force, suggests they had a tip-off.

The police obviously had some sort of inkling that a cannabis grow on the property would be heavily defended as armed police were on the scene, climbing ladders to enter the windows as well as front and rear doors simultaneously.

Within a minute or so of the doors and windows going in, several shots were heard by locals. It was confirmed that no policeman was harmed but 31-year-old Sean Fitzgerald was fatally wounded. An ambulance turned up very quickly and emergency medicine was administered on the scene but he was declared dead.

At the same time, two other men were arrested.

The Guardian: unarmed and shot in the back?

Photo of Sean Fitzgerald, shot dead by West Midlands Police.

Sean Fitzgerald, the unarmed ex-soldier shot dead by British police for growing cannabis.

You can imagine there has been a bit of a media frenzy over this as people don’t get shot by police too often in the UK. Amongst the babble, the Guardian newspaper raised two queries that the police are trying hard to refute.

The paper reported, “At about 1 pm on Saturday, police said they could not confirm whether a gun was found at the scene because the police watchdog was investigating. Later, however, West Midlands Police confirmed they were yet to find a firearm, adding that a search was ongoing.”

This confirms claims by one of Fitzgerald’s friends that he was shot while trying to escape. The police are also trying hard to refute the claims that he was shot in the back: “Asked about the claims, assistant chief constable Sue Southern said: “From the information, I have at this point, that is not my understanding … body-worn video has been examined and there will be a full forensic postmortem”.

Some insight into the IOPC

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) will now investigate.

Having had a family member killed by the police a couple of years ago, I will now hold my hands up and say that I’m not too fond of the police and take the view that they shouldn’t be allowed much more than a truncheon let alone a machine gun. The IOPC was brought into being during the investigation of my brother in law’s death and is said to be even more pro-police than the IPCC that it replaced.

Investigations can take 12-18 months. This will significantly delay justice for Fitzgerald’s family and the community he belonged to. Only then may we see a chance of criminal proceedings against the officer – criminal investigations against armed police are rare as hen’s teeth and it is unlikely that justice will be served.

A word on cannabis

My final thought on the matter is that it is very rare that you need seven armed cops to tackle a bunch of weed growing hippies. A terraced house in Coventry with maybe 50 or so plants isn’t exactly a warehouse full – this suggests extreme heavy-handedness on the part of the local plod.

Was the armed raid instituted because Fitzgerald was ex-Army? Most ex-soldiers are glad to leave weapons alone after leaving the Forces, as they more than anyone know what harm a gun can do to people.

These facts put together suggest a police force, hamstrung by tight budgets due to a government that couldn’t give a cuss for public safety, desperate for a quick win to tell the public that they are on top of the war on drugs. Crackhouses are far more dangerous for the community than a bunch of hippies growing weed, so I’m honestly baffled that the same heavy-handedness wasn’t applied to one of the dozens of such establishments in northern Coventry instead. Or is this a new tactic on the police’s part – sending in the armed mob to send lead flying in the UK war on drugs? Well, nothing else has worked to date.


Richard Shrubb

Richard is a marijuana, water sports and electric vehicles writer based in Dorchester, Dorset. Living in Prince Charles model housing estate, Poundbury, he is an avowed republican, community and Labour Party activist. Visit his website at www.richardshrubb.com for more about what he does.

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