A police officer might not have shot dead an unarmed man if senior commanders had competently organised the firearms response, a public inquiry has found.
Father-of-two Anthony Grainger was behind the wheel of a stolen Audi in Culcheth, Cheshire, when a Greater Manchester Police 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, 36, 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 a public car park off Jackson Avenue in the early evening of March 3, 2012.
Grainger, from Bolton, 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.”
A Greater Manchester Police spokesman said: “We fully understand the heart-breaking effect that Anthony Grainger’s death has had on his family and loved ones.
“We also fully understand that the public inquiry will have been very difficult for them. On behalf of Greater Manchester Police, we offer our condolences to Anthony Grainger’s family and to his loved ones.
“We have received the public inquiry report into the death of Anthony Grainger and we are considering the findings of the chairman, HHJ Teague QC.
“In his report, the chairman has made a number of findings which are critical of GMP.
“The criticisms are wide-ranging and include criticisms of aspects of the planning and preparation of the firearms operation during which Anthony Grainger lost his life on 3rd March 2012.
“The force, our commanders, and our officers do not set out on any policing operation with the intention of firearms being discharged. This case was no different and the safety of the public, the subjects of police operations and our officers is, and remains, our absolute priority.
“That being said, we undertake to consider each and every one of the chairman’s findings and criticisms with the utmost care, attention and reflection. It is what the public would expect GMP to do in circumstances where criticisms have been made of the planning and preparation of a police operation in which a young man lost his life. It is what GMP will do.