Rashan Charles: Witness who helped restrain 20-year-old says he was trying to help him as well as police officer
- Credit: Emma Bartholomew
A member of the public who helped a police officer restrain Rashan Charles in a Dalston shop before he died said he was trying to protect him.
The man, who has been granted anonymity at Rashan’s inquest, described a chaotic scene as he walked into Kingsland Road shop Yours Locally in the early hours of July 22 last year.
As he walked in he saw the 20-year-old being detained by a Met officer, referred to during the inquest at St Pancras Coroner’s Court as BX47.
Giving evidence, Witness 1 spoke frequently of confusion at the scene. He said BX47 “sweating” and in “shock”, and offered to help.
He helped restrain Rashan, placing his right hand behind his back to be handcuffed by BX47 and was shown, in video footage of the incident, straddling the young man, with one hand between his face and the floor, and the other hand on his face trying to open his mouth.
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Witness 1, who told the officer he was first aid trained having received one day of emergency medical training years earlier, shouted to onlookers for anything, even a chocolate bar, to help wedge open his mouth.
Footage of the incident played to the court showed the witness pinching Rashan’s nose and placing a finger in his mouth. He said he was just trying to make sure Rashan could breathe.
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He also insisted he had volunteered to help protect Rashan, as well as assist the officer.
“I offered my assistance to defuse any tension between the two,” Witness 1 told the inquest. “As I walked in, they both seemed to be in an awkward position on the floor and I lent an extra hand. I wanted to assist both. It was not mainly for the police officer, it was also to assist Rashan.”
Witness 1 was heard telling Rashan in the footage: “Just relax”.
He told the inquest: “I just wanted to show Rashan I am also there to help him and let the officer know that as well as assisting you, I am also there to protect Rashan should you get heavy handed with him.”
He also spoke of losing confidence when a large number of onlookers did not try to help.
“I could not understand why there was so many people present and no one was lending a hand which would have been so vital at that time,” he continued.
Witness 1 said when his colleague, referred to as BX48, arrived at the scene, the officer “took better control of the situation”.
He described watching paramedics use “long bendy scissors” to remove an object from Rashan’s throat. He described the object removed as a “lump in two bits, wrapped in cling film”.
Rashan died in hospital shortly after being restrained in the shop. On Monday BX47 told the inquest despite not believing Rashan was choking because he “wasn’t showing any of the physical signs”, he began to think “something wasn’t quite right”.
He also denied he had panicked, but admitted he should have called an ambulance before he did and would now approach a similar situation differently.
On Tuesday BX48, a qualified police medic, said when she arrived she immediately checked Rashan’s breathing, feeling the rise and fall of his chest. She told senior coroner Mary Hassell she would not have done anything differently. “I know on that early morning I followed the protocol I had been taught,” she said.