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Britain Opens Investigation After Officers Use Stun Gun on Race Relations Worker

LONDON — Judah Adunbi was returning home last week when two police officers suddenly confronted him, demanding his name. When he refused to give it, they yanked him outside his gate and shot him with a Taser stun gun.

But Mr. Adunbi was not the wanted suspect whom officers were seeking. He is a 63-year-old black race-relations adviser who has worked to improve ties between police officers and the black community in Bristol, about 120 miles west of London.

Britain’s police watchdog agency announced on Friday that it was opening an investigation into the episode, which was caught on video by a neighbor. The video, which spread rapidly on social media, reignited criticisms against the police over the use of force against blacks.

According to race-relations campaigners and data provided by the Home Office, black people are three times more likely to have a Taser used against them than white people.

The video showed officers telling Mr. Adunbi that they “think” he is wanted. “I’m not telling you. I’ve done no wrong,” he replied. One officer said: “So I have no choice then but to arrest you.”

“Leave me alone and let me go among my business,” Mr. Adunbi said, trying to bat them away. As he tried to get to his home through a gate, the officers dragged him outside into the street and fired their stun gun. One of the officers later told the neighbor, Tom Cherry: “He was trying to fight us.”

Speaking to The Guardian about the episode, Mr. Adunbi, a founding member of an independent advisory group working to improve relations between the police and Afro-Caribbean community, said, “At first, you don’t accuse someone of being someone else. You ask questions. The first thing they should have done is come to me in a polite manner. The way they approached me, they were accusing me. That is wrong.”

Mr. Abundi said that this was the second time he had been mistakenly identified by the police as a suspect.

Chief Superintendent Jon Reilly, of the Avon and Somerset Police, the department that covers Bristol, told local media that the local police precinct had voluntarily referred the episode to the watchdog agency, the Independent Police Complaints Commission. “Although we don’t have to refer an incident in which a Taser has been discharged to the I.P.C.C., we want to be as open and transparent as possible.

Describing the Taser’s impact, Mr. Abundi said, “I heard this sound and felt something hit me below the lip. I collapsed on the ground. I was paralyzed. I couldn’t speak or move and didn’t have any strength in me. She then told me to get up.

“I knew if she fired again it would have killed me. They tried to lift me off the ground. They raised me up and leaned me up against a garage, but I started to slide down. It’s a grace of God that I’m still alive. She has done a very terrible thing to me.”

Chief Superintendent Reilly said that the community was “going to have concerns” and that police would “really like to answer those.”

Sara Ogilvie, policy officer at Liberty, a human rights advocacy group, told the media that “Incidents like this are deeply disturbing. Warm words about working with communities mean nothing if officers aren’t willing to practice what they preach.”

Source: NYT > World

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