This particular variant of "law enforcement" the headshot, is borrowed from Israel. It's drawn from "Operation Kratos", where a suspect is shot in the head on the chance that he might be wearing a suicide vest. It allegedly is meant to prevent detonation.
Update 3: From La Repubbica:
The victim was in no way connected to the London bombings. Neither was he a terrorist nor carried explosives on his person. British police have admitted that the man killed in the Underground station at Stockwell had nothing to do with the deaths and climate of fear in London. A tragic error has occured. British law enforcement has expressed regret but this is unsufficient to quell public debate.
The police directorate is looking into a case of professional misconduct while an independent commission is investigating in order to understand how it was possible that a person--who perhaps had something to hide because he fled from police [plainclothes police!--Nur]--was murdered with five bullets fired a point blank to the head in the presences of dozens of terrified bystanders.
The victim is Brazilian. Scotland Yard has confirmed his identity after the man's cousin came forward. He is Jean Charles de Menezes, 27, an electrician from Minas Gerais, Brazel. His cousin, Maria Alves, said that de Menezes had been working--fully documented--for five years in London
It is a tragedy that someone lost his life in this way, and the police express their regret, said a British police communique. We are now certain that he was not connected with the bombings of 21 July. The dynamics of the event are as follows: The man exited a home in Tulse Hill which was under surveillance as part of the 21 July bombings investigation. He was tailed to the Underground station by metropolitan police. His attire and behavior raised the suspicions of the police.
Yesterday the head of London police, Ian Blair, announced that the shooting was "directly linked to the terrorism investigation" but many questions were being asked immediately after the episode, which acutely raised tensions in London.
The man was "iced" according to the dictates of Operation Kratos, which grants the anti-terrorism team licence to kill possible bombers. But the man who was killed has no explosives on his person.
In a country where weapons are carried only by certain elite police unites (like SO-19, which was involved in the Stockwell Station shooting) and where persons killed by police is a rarity, the shooting has caused a great deal of consternation and the admission of the error will inflame public debate, especially within the Muslim Community.
Azzam Tamimi, the spokesman for the Association of British Muslims, has demanded a change in instructions to police. This should happen. The directive to shoot to kill is very dangerous. For Iqbal Sacranie, Secretary-General of the Council of British Muslims, While we accept the fact that the police are under tremendous pressure to capture the criminals who wish to bomb the streets of London, it is absolutely vital to insure that innocents are not killed by an excess of zeal.
For Myriam Ibrahim, spokesperson for Muslim Public Affairs Committee, The police are working in a moment of crisis and we would prefer not to criticize them. However, we live in a country where one is innocent until proven guilty.
Update 2: The victim was a Brazilian national working as an electrician in Britain for the past three years.
Update: And these dark comment from posters @ Atrios' Eschaton:
- It's the grand new policy of pre-emption. How do we know he wouldn't be a terrorist someday?
- So it's Israeli (and now British) cowboy policy to go for the headshot? Against the CW (aim for the center of mass) of LEA worldwide? And at a moving target? In a crowd? Oy!