A man who was shot with a Taser by police in London and had to be rescued from the Thames has died, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has said.
Police were called to Chelsea Bridge Road in west London on Saturday morning after receiving reports that a man was armed with a screwdriver and shouting.
When officers arrived shortly after, the Metropolitan police said they had challenged a man on Chelsea Bridge and discharged a stun gun but that “did not enable the officers to safely detain him”.
The man, in his early 40s, “subsequently entered the river”, police said, and was rescued by the RNLI, which took him to hospital, where his condition was assessed as critical.
The IOPC said on Sunday that the man had died in hospital and an independent inquiry was under way.
The police watchdog’s director, Steve Noonan, said: “We have spoken to the man’s family to express our sincere condolences and explain our involvement. Our sympathies remain with them at this terrible time.
“Our independent investigation is under way into the police actions at the bridge and we have begun gathering and reviewing evidence.”
Video of the incident posted online shows two officers confronting the man, who falls to the ground after the stun gun is discharged.
After struggling, the man gets up and runs to the side of the bridge and pulls himself over the edge before either officer can reach him.
Commander Alexis Boon said: “My thoughts are with the man’s family at this very difficult time. I offer my sincere condolences to them for their tragic loss.
“Officers go to work every day to keep the public safe, and so any incident in which a person comes to harm following contact with police is understandably concerning.
“Our officers face some of the most challenging and difficult situations daily, in doing so they are fully aware that their actions should rightly be subject to public scrutiny.
“The Met’s directorate of professional standards made an immediate referral to the Independent Office for Police Conduct following this sad incident, and we will cooperate fully with them as they work to understand the full circumstances.”
Police use of stun guns, commonly known as Tasers, has been the subject of numerous controversies in the past. The IOPC found in February that a Met police officer who shot a 10-year-old girl with such a weapon should face gross misconduct proceedings. The officer fired at the girl in south-west London after reports she had been threatening a woman with garden shears and a hammer.
The following month, an officer was charged with grievous bodily harm after a man was shot with a Taser and left paralyzed from the chest down. Officers from the Met’s Territorial Support Group had stopped Jordan Walker-Brown, 25, on two consecutive days on 3 and 4 May 2020, and both times he was found to be carrying a small amount of cannabis for personal use. He was jumping over a wall, which was about 1.2 meters (4ft) high on one side but had a 1.8-meter drop on the other, when he was struck by the Taser. He then fell over the wall.
A social worker who was shot with a Taser and knocked unconscious during a roadside stop last month said police had treated him like a “wild animal”. Edwin Afriyie, 36, is suing City of London police after suffering a head injury and suicidal thoughts as a result of the incident.
The latest incident comes as the home secretary, Priti Patel, announced that special constables will be given access to stun guns as part of a range of new crime initiatives. Amnesty International UK’s policing expert said in response that arming volunteer officers was dangerous and would inevitably lead to “more instances of misuse, serious harm and death from Tasers”.