Deadly force ‘justified’ in arrest of Sheku Bayoh, police officer says

Police witness PC Ashley Tomlinson.
Police witness PC Ashley Tomlinson.

A PC who struck Sheku Bayoh with his baton believed deadly force was justified, the inquiry into the Kirkcaldy man’s death has heard.

PC Ashley Tomlinson had previously told how he struck the trainee gas fitter across the face after Mr Bayoh attacked colleague PC Nicole Short.

PC Short was lying on the ground at Hayfield Road after being chased and “stomped” on by Mr Bayoh.

Giving evidence for a second day, PC Tomlinson said: “His actions towards PC Short were such that I thought he was going to kill her.

“Obviously, we’ve had reports of a knife as well so there’s a consideration that there’s a weapon still in play.

“What I mean by that is its unaccounted for at that time.”

Former PC Nicole Short had been attacked by Mr Bayoh, police say.

PC Tomlinson said Mr Bayoh was displaying passive resistance that escalated to “serious/aggravated assaultive resistance”, where there is a threat of serious injury or danger to life on the part of a suspect.

Deadly force is defined by Police Scotland as a level that has “potential to cause serious injury or even death when it is applied”

Describing the levels of force used throughout the incident, he said: “Initially the draw of the baton was a defensive technique because I perceived that I was going to be attacked.

“So the initial draw of the baton was level 4 – defensive.

“When I perceived that PC Short was about to be killed it was level 5, because I was under the genuine belief that he had, or was in the process of, killing PC Short.”

He said during the initial seconds of the restraint process, he had again used his baton to strike Mr Bayoh as a defensive technique.

“It wasn’t used to cause injury, merely pain compliance.

Protestors at Capital House in Edinburgh for the public inquiry into the death of Sheku Bayoh.

“I’d already witnessed Mr Bayoh use his legs as weapons and I didn’t want to be in a position where I was on the floor.”

Asked by Angela Grahame QC is he believed deadly or lethal force was justified, PC Tomlinson said: “I do”.

Knife not found

He also told the hearing he as unable to find the knife reportedly carried by Mr Bayoh.

A search revealed he was carrying a packet of chewing gum.

The knife carried by Mr Bayoh, according to an earlier witness.

He said: “There was also a gold mobile phone.

“I don’t remember that coming out of his pocket, so I don’t know if that was Mr Bayoh’s or a member of the public’s or one of the officer’s.”

He said that on returning to the station following the incident he felt “pretty s**t”.

“I was glad I had survived,” he said.

“I didn’t think that I would have got back.”

Witness sees knees on back during restraint

Kirkcaldy shopkeeper Aktar Ali told the hearing he had briefly witnessed the arrest.

He stated Mr Bayoh was “face down” with hands cuffed behind his back and officers had hands and knees on his back.

Ahtar Ali.

Mr Aktar said: “There were two police officers that had pinned down someone.

“I also saw a woman police officer crossing the road towards parked vehicles.

“(The police officer) had his knee on the body and his hands down.

“Both (Sheku Bayoh’s) hands were folded onto his back.”

In his statement to PIRC in 2015, Mr Aktar said: “I wasn’t shocked at what I’d seen, it was just an arrest.

“I got the impression that the person on the ground was trying to get up and the officers were using force to keep him down.”

The inquiry before Lord Bracadale continues.

Sheku Bayoh: Key questions answered as the inquiry into Fife man’s death meets in Edinburgh

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Kirkcaldy – The Courier