Police have told an inquest they were “flabbergasted” when the convicted terrorist Usman Khan, who was shot to death on London Bridge in 2019, survived the first few shots.
Khan killed 25-year-old Jack Merritt and 23-year-old Saskia Jones at a rehabilitation conference in Fishmongers’ Hall on 29 November 2019. He was chased on to London Bridge and shot at 20 times in two spells, eight minutes apart.
A firearms officer, who shot Khan four times during the second spell of gunfire, told the inquest of his disbelief: “All I could think was: ‘Why aren’t you dead?’”
The hearing at London’s Guildhall has been told how the 28-year-old was initially shot twice by officers before unexpectedly sitting up and turning his head to stare towards the armed police, who then fired again.
The officer – known only as AZ99 to protect his identity – told the inquest he was concerned Khan was reaching for a suicide belt, which was wrapped about his waist. “At that point there, I thought we’re dead,” he said.
“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.”
The belt, which police believe Khan had worn on the train journey to London from his home in Stafford, turned out to be fake.
He briefly touched a wound his forehead before slumping to the ground. He was declared dead roughly an hour later after the scene was made safe.
AZ99 told the inquest: “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?’”
A tactical firearms commander, who was watching the scene play out on a screen in his control room, said he had been “in a cold sweat” because he had thought Khan was wearing a working suicide belt with officers and public in close proximity.
The officer, referred to as WA30, said: “I was flabbergasted that the man had been shot numerous times and it took a while for him to cease moving.
“Eventually – very slowly, nothing like you see in the movies – he ceased moving.
“I could hear my own heartbeat,” he added. “I was sweating profusely, my mouth went so dry. I really thought I was going to see numerous people murdered by the detonation of that device.
“I was squinting at the monitor thinking he would detonate that at any moment – thinking he would kill my officers, the public as well,” he added. “The only thing we could do was a critical shot. We had to neutralise the subject.”
The inquest continues.