Rashan Charles: Police officer ‘probably’ should have called ambulance sooner, he admits
PUBLISHED: 08:25 05 June 2018 | UPDATED: 08:51 05 June 2018
The police officer who chased and wrestled Rashan Charles to the ground before he died said he “knew something wasn’t quite right” and that he probably should have called an ambulance sooner.
The 20-year-old father of one died in the early hours of July 22, shortly after being restrained at the Yours Locally shop in Kingsland Road.
He had swallowed a package of what police suspected was drugs, but was later confirmed to be caffeine and paracetamol wrapped in cellophane.
On the opening day of Rashan’s inquest at St Pancras Coroner’s Court, jurors were shown chilling body-worn camera footage from the officer who wrestled him to the ground, which ended with Rashan lying motionless on the floor.
In it, the officer – identified only as BX47 – can be heard repeatedly telling Rashan: “Spit it out.”
BX47, a Pc who was an acting Sgt on a night shift, told the inquest he and colleagues were driving to Hoxton when they saw a car of young men and “decided to check on the vehicle”.
After Rashan got out and ran off, he was chased down Middleton Road, before he doubled back towards Kingsland Road and into Yours Locally with BX47 following.
Describing his attempts to restrain Rashan, BX47 said: “I felt his arms pulling upwards and in an attempt to control him I have put him against the ice cream chest looking to handcuff him.
“At that point he’s pulling away and it seems like he’s trying to pull his hands to his mouth. It made me think maybe he had something in his hands he was trying to put into his mouth, possibly drugs.”
Struggling to handcuff Rashan, BX47 said he decided to pull him to the floor using the “seatbelt hold” and realised he already had something in his mouth because he was clenching his teeth.
At this point a member of the public, Witness 1, asked if he could help and sat on Rashan, who was then cuffed.
In the footage, Witness 1 can be heard telling Rashan: “Stop biting my fingers. I’m trying to help you breathe. I’m a first aider.”
Both BX47 and Witness 1 are also heard saying Rashan is breathing.
“I remember saying ‘spit it out’ and telling him to breathe as well,” BX47 told the inquest. “As he was straining so much, I was conscious, having run the distance I did, it’s quite exhausting. It was important to encourage him to breathe. I remember saying: ‘I don’t care about the drugs.’”
Ms Hassell said she was “slightly confused” by BX47 telling Rashan to breathe in the footage. “Generally speaking, most of us don’t need to be told [to breathe],” she said.
BX47 replied: “He was clenching and I was thinking, rather than concentrating on keeping his teeth closed and what was in his mouth, he needed to concentrate on breathing.”
Despite not believing Rashan was choking because he wasn’t showing any of the physical signs, he said, BX47 began to think “something wasn’t quite right”.
He called for back-up, but didn’t call for an ambulance straight away. When asked if he should have done by Ms Hassell, he said: “Probably, yes.”
Regarding Witness 1, Ms Hassell asked BX47 whether he should have told him to back away after he had helped him handcuff Rashan, and asserted control as the police officer.
“At some point he said that he was a first aider,” BX47 told her.
Ms Hassell said it struck her that Witness 1 had a “lot of bodily contact” with Rashan after the handcuffs were on. In the footage, Witness 1 appears to be sitting on Rashan and holding his mouth open.
BX47 said: “At that point the situation was quite confusing. I couldn’t say exactly what was happening. From what I could see where he was stood next to him, Witness 1 didn’t have any body weight on [Rashan’s] main trunk area. I remember being conscious of that.
“Other than that I was pretty much concentrating on checking Rashan’s breathing and wracking my brain to try and work out what was going on.”
When asked if he had panicked by Ms Hassell, he said he had not.
“I wouldn’t say I panicked. There was a lot of things going on, I was just trying to work out what it was and see what was the best thing to do next.”
The inquest follows a decision by the Crown Prosecution Service not to charge the officer involved with common assault.
Investigators for the police watchdog, the IOPC, have said Rashan “most likely” died because he tried to swallow a package that blocked his airway.
A pathologist found the 20-year-old dad-of-one had “no other significant injuries to the head, neck or torso that would suggest prolonged or excessive restraint in the lead-up to his death”.
He then became “unwell” and died soon after being taken to the Royal London Hospital, according to the official line. The post-mortem results indicate Rashan died of cardiac arrest brought on by a blocked upper airway.
The inquest continues.