Why aren’t you DEAD?: Firearms cop tells of moment Usman Khan stared at officers after being shot
A firearms officer called to the scene of the Fishmongers’ Hall terror attack recalled his astonishment that suspect Usman Khan had not died, despite being shot at multiple times.
The officer, known only at Khan’s inquest by the cipher AZ99 to protect his identity, was one of six armed police to fire 20 shots at Khan during two periods of gunfire, shortly after the suspect stabbed and killed two Cambridge University graduates.
The first exchange comprised two quick shots which felled Khan, having earlier been pinned to the ground by passers by after telling them he had a bomb on him.
The second exchange, a volley of 18 shots across a period of around 90 seconds, came eight minutes later when Khan summoned the energy to sit up from his prone position on the floor where he had been seen on CCTV to be breathing deeply, writhing around, and appearing to mutter to himself.
A bystander grabs a narwhal tusk to take down Usman Khan on London Bridge shortly before he was shot dead by police
He appeared to turn his head sideways and stare directly at the armed officers for a few seconds when he was hit by police gunfire, briefly touching a wound on his forehead before slumping finally to the ground. He was pronounced dead an hour later when the scene was declared safe.
Giving evidence to the inquest into Khan’s death, AZ99 recalled how he shot the suspect four times in the second period of gunfire, but was in disbelief Khan had not died.
AZ99 said: ‘He did fall back after one shot.
‘Quite surreal – he put his hand towards his head, he pulled his hand away to look for blood.
‘All I could think was: ‘Why aren’t you dead?’
The officer, known only at Khan’s inquest by the cipher AZ99 to protect his identity, was one of six armed police to fire 20 shots at Khan during two periods of gunfire
Usman Khan at Bank station on his way to attend a prisoner rehabilitation event
AZ99 said he opened fire because he was concerned Khan was reaching for a suicide belt, which was wrapped about his waist.
He told the inquest: ‘At that point there, I thought: “We’re dead.”
‘This was the first movement he did that was an action rather than a reaction.
‘It felt like a defined movement of: I’m now going to do something to you.’
Khan was in central London on November 29 2019 after being invited to attend an event by prison education charity Learning Together at Fishmongers’ Hall.
Jurors concluded that ‘missed opportunities’ by the agencies contributed to the killing of Jack Merritt, 25, and Saskia Jones, 23, by jihadi Usman Khan
Usman Khan on board a train to London, which was shown in court at the inquest into the terror attack at the Fishmongers’ Hall
Khan (below right) can be seen here in CCTV arriving at the prisoner rehabilitation event near London Bridge
Steve Gallant carrying a tusk as he exits Fishmongers’ Hall in pursuit of Usman Khan
Police believe he travelled down by train from his home in Stafford with the fake suicide belt already strapped around his waist, while his bag contained kitchen knives bought in the days before the attack.
He stabbed Jack Merritt, 25, and Saskia Jones, 23, at the Learning Together event before being chased from the venue.
Khan had been released from prison less than a year earlier, having served an eight-year jail term for plotting a terrorist training camp in his parents’ homeland of Pakistan.
The inquest continues.
Fishmongers’ Hall inquest jury’s full findings: The series of failings that left terrorist Khan free to kill
An inquest jury for the victims of the Fishmongers’ Hall terror attack found ‘omission or failure’ in the management of Usman Khan in the community by MI5 and the police contributed to the deaths.
Asked to give a explanation for the conclusion, they issued a series of bullet points:
Unacceptable management and lack of accountability;
Serious deficiencies in the management of Khan by Mappa (Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements);
Insufficient experience and training;
Blind spot to Khan’s unique risks due to ‘poster boy’ image;
Lack of psychological assessment post-release from prison.
At the time of his release in 2018, Khan – a convicted terrorist – was assessed as being a ‘very high risk of serious harm’ to the public by a prison psychologist.
MI5 had even passed on ‘uncorroborated’ intelligence to police that Khan was preparing to return to his ‘old ways’ and that he aspired to carry out an attack. But the Mappa panel was only told of the ‘old ways’ strand, which was labelled ‘low grade’, jurors were told.
MI5 and counter-terrorism police had also launched an investigation into Khan which was still ongoing at the time of the attack. However, Khan’s probation officer and the Mappa chairman were unaware of the probe.
A senior MI5 officer told the inquest jury that the intelligence service remained ‘sceptical’ about Khan’s compliance with his licence conditions following his release, but did not counsel caution.
One of Khan’s mentors recorded an incident when the terrorist became angry and then quickly covered it up. Only much later did the mentor describe being fearful at witnessing Khan with ‘hate’ in his eyes and ‘evil intent’.
The Mappa panel, made up of largely police and probation officers, met 12 times to discuss Khan’s case.
A plan for him to attend a Learning Together event in March 2019 was deemed ‘too soon’ and a dumper truck course was rejected due to incidents of terrorists using vehicles as weapons. However, in the summer of 2019, Khan was permitted an escorted appearance at a Learning Together event at Whitemoor prison.
When in August the proposed unescorted London event in November was put forward by the Probation Service, there was no record of it having been positively approved by Mappa. Jonathan Hough QC, for the coroner, suggested there was ‘a collective blind spot’ about the trip and its associated risks.
Panel chairman Nigel Byford said the decision should have been recorded in minutes but insisted no-one raised any objections about it at the time.
Sonia Flynn, executive director of the Probation Service, told jurors that the decision to allow the London trip should not have been left to one probation officer and there should have been a risk assessment.
Probation officers assigned to his case were ‘inexperienced’ in dealing with terrorism offenders, and did not have enough time to spend with Khan, it was claimed.
By September 2019, Khan was exhibiting some of warning signs raised by the prison psychologist in her report the year before. He had failed to find a job and was increasingly socially isolated, spending much of his time at home playing on his Xbox.
From the time Khan moved out of approved premises and into a rented flat, Prevent police officers visited him twice, spending just 18 minutes with him, the court heard.
The security services learned of the London trip in November 2019, just 11 days before the event. In her evidence, the senior MI5 officer conceded that a discussion around the risks at the joint operations team meeting ‘would have been helpful’.
But she said it would have taken 24/7 surveillance to have foiled the lone wolf knife attack, which would have been unwarranted on the information they had at the time.
Learning Together co-founder Dr Ruth Armstrong said she was unaware of intelligence on Khan and had she known, he would not have been invited to Fishmongers’ Hall.
Jurors were told the organisation made no risk assessment of the event beforehand. Research associate Simon Larmour, who accompanied Khan from Euston station on the morning of the attack, said he only knew of his terror conviction through a Google search.
Staff at Fishmongers’ Hall said they were not warned that a convicted terrorist was among the delegates. There were no bag searches on the door or knife arches at the venue, jurors heard.
Counter-terrorism prison security governor Steve Machin, who was among the guests, noticed Khan was wearing a bulky coat, which it later transpired concealed a fake suicide vest. He told jurors he was not in a work ‘headspace’ so accepted Khan’s ‘plausible’ explanation.
Later that day, Khan strapped knives to his hands and fatally stabbed Saskia Jones and Jack Merritt before being shot dead on London Bridge.
Previously, the Mappa panel had regarded Khan’s association with offender educational group Learning Together as positive and something to be encouraged.