Inquest concludes fatal shooting of Josh Pitt by Bedfordshire police was ‘lawful killing’
Josh Pitt, a 24 year old man from Luton, was fatally shot by armed Bedfordshire police officers on 9 November 2016 at the flat he shared with his fianc~A(c)e Katherine Moore. The inquest into his death today concluded that the fatal shooting was 'lawful killing', as directed by the Coroner. Saunders Law represented Josh's fianc~A(c)e, Katherine Moore, who was present on the day of his death. Josh was much loved by his partner who described him as caring and loving. He had a history of mental ill health and self-harm and had experienced a troubled childhood. He was not known to have been violent to partners in the past.
On the day of his death, Josh's fianc~A(c)e called the police while she was locked in their flat unable to leave. Josh was out at the time and had the only key. Katherine reported that she had been assaulted by Josh and wanted police to help her get out before he returned. As a result, officers were dispatched to the flat, including two armed officers had the necessary equipment to force entry to the flat.
The 999 call was graded as 'Immediate High' in terms of priority level. Police officers arrived after 30 minutes, when Josh was already back, and forced entry. Josh had already picked up knives form the kitchen and then barricaded himself inside a bedroom with Katherine. He threatened to harm himself and others. He was instructed by police to put the knives down but did not comply.
Katherine was taken out of the bedroom by one of the unarmed officers. Josh held a knife to his own throat at which point a Taser was used to try to stop him from self-harming. He is then said by the officers to have lunged towards them holding a knife. The taser had not been effective and a shot was fired by one of the armed officers. Josh received a shot to the chest and died.
The jury were directed by the Coroner at the end of the evidence that the officer who fired the fatal shot had acted in lawful self-defence and so the only conclusion in respect of the shooting itself was one of lawful killing. The jury were however invited to also consider the events in the lead up to the shooting and whether any acts of omissions in the way in which the call was handled and the officers were dispatched contributed to death.
In a narrative verdict the jury outlined the events and found that at all times Josh had refused to follow the police's orders and posed an immediate and imminent threat to life. They did note however that "The omission to issue a description of Josh Pitt over the radio to the Police Officers assigned and dispatched to the scene was a missed opportunity", but could not say whether this would have made a difference in preventing Josh's death.
Josh's partner Katherine Moore responded to the conclusion saying: "I think Josh was suffering from some form of breakdown at the time he was killed. Most of the time he was a lovely guy, he made me laugh and we would joke around a lot, and he was an amazing father. We were very much in love, he was my best friend. However, he did have his issues. The way he was behaving on 9 November was I think because of his breakdown. He had a troubled and difficult childhood and struggled with his mental health. He wanted to be normal and did not like taking his medication.
I have sat through all the evidence in the inquest and it seems to me that the police had no plans for when they arrived at my flat and could have got to me before Josh got back. There was 30 minutes between my call and them arriving. Had they got to me sooner Josh would still be with me. I want Josh to be remembered for the caring loving person he was, and I want people to know the way he was that day was not his normal self, the way he behaved was down to his breakdown."
Following the conclusion of the inquest, Nia Williams, Partner at Saunders Law said and one of the team that represented Ms Moore said: "This was a tragic sequence of events that ultimately led to the fatal shooting of Josh Pitt, who was just 24 years old, by an armed Police Officer. The use of lethal force by police officers always required very careful public scrutiny whatever the circumstances. The inquest process is a crucial part of that scrutiny and it was necessary here for the events leading up to Josh being killed as well as the shooting itself to be fully investigated.
Lessons can always be learned with regards dealing with vulnerable individuals in high risk situations. Ultimately, it should be remembered that the family have lost someone they loved very much, and the family should always be at the very heart of inquest proceedings. It is imperative that families have their questions answered following the tragic death of a loved one, particularly if that death occurs at the hands of the State."
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