Man shot dead by officer was lawfully killed, inquest concludes
A man who was fatally shot by a West Yorkshire Police officer in 2017 was lawfully killed, an inquest jury has concluded.
Yassar Yaqub, 28, was a passenger in one of two cars travelling on the M62 when they were forced to stop by armed officers in unmarked vehicles on the slip road at junction 24.
The four occupants were challenged by officers and Mr Yaqub was shot three times and died at the scene. The other three men were arrested and a non-police issue firearm was recovered from the footwell of the vehicle where Mr Yaqub had been sitting.
The inquest jury’s conclusion was that “from the evidence produced and reviewed [firearms officer known as] V39 honestly believed that a firearm was being aimed at him. His life was in danger, and he used reasonable force discharging his firearm”. It concluded the killing was “lawfull”.
The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) said its investigation into the incident on January 2, 2017, found no evidence any officer had committed a criminal offence or breached standards of professional behaviour.
The vehicles had been stopped as part of Operation Fillview, a West Yorkshire Police investigation into an organised crime group linked to firearms and drugs.
The IOPC said: “During the investigation, we looked at the actions and decision-making of the officer who fired the shots; the movements of Mr Yaqub at the time the car was stopped; the planning and implementation of Operation Fillview; and West Yorkshire Police’s use of audio and visual recording devices during the operation.
“We obtained statements from a large number of witnesses; analysed audio and video recordings; and also considered evidence from the criminal trial in 2018 arising from the arrest of the three men stopped with Mr Yaqub. All police officers involved were treated as witnesses throughout the investigation.
IOPC Director of Major Investigations Steve Noonan said: “Our thoughts remain with the family and loved ones of Yassar Yaqub, as well as all those affected by his death, at this difficult time.
“It is vital that any use of lethal force by police is thoroughly and independently scrutinised. Our independent investigation was comprehensive and detailed, helping provide clarity on the events of January 2, 2017.
“At no stage during the investigation did the evidence indicate that any officer may have committed a criminal offence or breached the standards of professional behaviour.
“The officer who fired the shots gave a clear and credible account, which was strongly supported by other evidence, explaining the use of force to IOPC investigators. Based on the available information, we considered the use of force to be necessary and reasonable in the circumstances as he genuinely and reasonably believed them to be.
“We previously published our recommendations, which were accepted by West Yorkshire Police, based on the findings of this investigation. However, there was no indication the issues we identified had any direct impact on the outcome of the police operation.
“Our work was shared with the coroner and included among the evidence used by the jury in reaching their conclusion, which is consistent with our own findings. I am grateful to them for their careful consideration of this case.
“I would like to once again offer our sincere condolences to Mr Yaqub’s loved ones.”
In a statement following the conclusion of the inquest, West Yorkshire Police Chief Constable John Robins said the tragic loss of life, unfortunate as it was, “was necessary to keep the public safe in what was a rapidly unfolding and dangerous situation”.
He said the threat at the time was real and as a result “an officer had to take the necessary and proportionate action”.
“The loss of life in any circumstances is, of course, tragic and our sympathies remain with the Yaqub family for the loss of their loved one,” said Mr Robins.
“But I also want to acknowledge how difficult the past five to six years have also been for the officers and staff who were directly involved.
“This has been a constant in their lives, from the incident itself, the criminal prosecutions, the investigation by the IOPC and finally the recent inquest itself.
“During the IOPC investigation, officers and staff were rightly treated as witnesses throughout.
“The outcome of that investigation did not raise any criminal or misconduct issues for any officers or staff.
“During the inquest I followed the daily proceedings. My overwhelming impression was of the professionalism, knowledge, expertise and compassion displayed by all the officers and staff involved.
“I hope that people will now see that the tragic loss of life, unfortunate as it was, was necessary to keep the public safe in what was a rapidly unfolding and dangerous situation.
“It is thankfully rare that any police action results in the death of an individual. When it does, it is right that we are open to full scrutiny, just as in this case.
“The actions of all involved have been scrutinised by both the IOPC and now by a jury before a coroner.
“The inquest has provided a clear and transparent understanding of what happened. Our sole intention was to safely detain Mr Yaqub and to remove illegally held firearms from our streets.
“However, as events rapidly unfolded, it is obvious that the threat at the time was real and as a result an officer had to take the necessary and proportionate action.
“Firearms officers perform a highly skilled and incredibly demanding role. They are brave and courageous people, who keep us all safe.
“I believe the individuals who make up West Yorkshire Police’s firearms teams are amongst the best in the world. It is a job that carries a huge responsibility and sometimes means making the hardest of all decisions.
“Police officers and staff face dangers every day to keep the public safe. I am proud of them and the work they do.
“But they can only do it with the support and understanding of all of the communities we serve and I remain committed to policing being professional, open and transparent.
“So, I hope that the inquest has helped explain in detail what occurred in the lead up to the death of Mr Yaqub.”