Europe

British Police Charge 2 With Killing Trio in Riots

Former NYPD commissioner in talks with British government on how to bring an end to violence

 

A man and teenager were charged Saturday with the murder of three men in a hit-and-run attack during riots in the English city of Birmingham, the deadliest attack during the past week's street unrest in Britain.

Both males would be arraigned Sunday morning at Birmingham Magistrates Court on three counts each of murder, police said.

Joshua Donald, 26, from a street gang stronghold in Birmingham was identified as the older suspect. The 17-year-old suspect, who lives in the same district as the three dead men, was not identified because of his juvenile status.

The breakthrough by a team of 70 detectives came less than four days after Haroon Jahan, 20, and brothers Shazad Ali, 30, and Abdul Musavir, 31, were mortally wounded when a car struck them at high speed. The trio had been part of a larger group standing guard in front of a row of Pakistani-owned shops.

The killings threatened to ignite clashes between the area's South Asian and black gangs, but the father of Haroon Jahan made a series of impressively composed public statements in the hours after his son's death pleading for forgiveness, racial harmony and no retaliation.

Hours before Saturday's murder charges were announced, the father, Tariq Jahan, told journalists at a Birmingham news conference he had received thousands of letters from well-wishers worldwide.

"I would like to thank the community, especially the young people, for listening to what I have to say and staying calm," said Jahan, 46, a delivery driver for an electronics chain.

Police in London were continuing to interrogate several suspects linked to the riots' two other killings: of a 26-year-old man shot to death in a car after a high-speed chase involving a rival group of men, and a 68-year-old loner who was beaten to death after arguing with rioters and trying to extinguish a fire they had set.

England's forces of law and order have been on the defensive over their slow initial response to riots that rapidly spread Aug. 6 from the north London district of Tottenham to several London flashpoints and, eventually, to Birmingham, Manchester, Nottingham and other cities with high gang activity.

But police leaders mounted a series of critical interviews Saturday underscoring their view that Cameron was jumping the gun by seeking foreign advice at a time when his debt-hit government was pressing ahead with plans to cut police budgets by 20 percent.

Leaders of the police unions in London and the northwest city of Manchester -- which dealt relatively harshly with rioters and quelled trouble there in one night -- stressed that Cameron needed to listen to their expertise first, rather than seek to apply lessons from America's better-armed, more aggressive approach to policing.

"America polices by force. We don't want to do that in this country," said Paul Deller of the Metropolitan Police Federation, which represents more than 30,000 officers in the British capital.

Deller, a 25-year Met officer, accused the government of not being serious about following Bratton's recipe for reducing crime.

"When Mr. Bratton was in New York and Los Angeles, the first thing he did was to increase the number of police on the street, whereas we've got a government that wants to do exactly the opposite," he said, warning that planned budget cuts would mean 2,000 officers lose their jobs in London and thousands more nationwide.

Ian Hanson, chairman of the federation's Manchester branch, said local officers knew better how to police their own communities than "someone who lives 5,000 miles away."

Results of an opinion poll published Sunday suggested stronger public support for the police than for Cameron's approach to the crisis.

The poll, commissioned jointly by British newspapers Sunday Mirror and the Independent on Sunday, found that 61 percent thought Cameron and his Cabinet colleagues were too slow to end their foreign summer holidays following last weekend's outbreak of violence. Cameron returned to London from his break in Italy's Tuscany region Tuesday, after almost all of the London rioting had passed.

And strong majorities backed greater support and resources for the police, calling for planned budget cuts to be put on hold. About 65 percent said British troops should be used to reinforce police in event of future riots, while even heavier majorities said police should be permitted to use water cannon and plastic bullets against rioters and impose curfews on unruly communities. All of those measures have been used to control street violence in the British territory of Northern Ireland but never in Britain itself.

The survey of 2,008 people, conducted Tuesday and Wednesday, had an error margin of 3 percentage points.