- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 9, 2009

LONDON | A week after a Londoner's sudden death at a rally he apparently never wanted to be part of, his strange case is raising difficult questions for the capital's police.

Ian Tomlinson, a burly 47-year-old newspaper vendor, was trying to make his way home after work April 1 when he got caught up in the sporadic clashes between police and protesters drawn by the Group of 20 economic summit.

Initial autopsy reports indicated he died of a heart attack, and police said protesters had hampered their attempt to revive him. The inference was that the police had nothing to do with his demise.

But new footage being examined by the Independent Police Complaints Commission gives a different picture, casting police in a more aggressive light.

The footage, whose authenticity is not being challenged by police, shows officers with batons and dogs on leashes approaching Mr. Tomlinson as he tries to walk away with his hands in his pockets. One officer then pushes Mr. Tomlinson to the ground, where he strikes the pavement hard. It is not clear from the footage whether there was any provocation for the police action.

Mr. Tomlinson was able to get up with the help of an unidentified man, but collapsed and died several minutes later.

Deborah Glass, deputy commissioner of the Independent Police Complaints Commission, said Wednesday that because of the new footage the commission will begin an independent investigation to consider whether criminal charges should be filed.

“This footage is clearly disturbing,” she said.

Ms. Glass said the investigation is focused on identifying the police officers in the footage. She said four had already come forward, including the one seen pushing Mr. Tomlinson. She said the commission has ordered a second autopsy of Mr. Tomlinson's body.

Metropolitan Police Chief Paul Stephenson said Wednesday the video “raises obvious concerns” and must be fully investigated.

Paul King, Mr. Tomlinson's stepson, told the British Broadcasting Corp. radio that his stepfather was not involved in the protest and had left his workplace about a half-hour before he died.

The incident is sparking comparisons in the media and among advocacy groups to the police killing of Jean Charles de Menezes, an innocent Brazilian who was fatally shot on a London Underground train by police who were looking for terrorists after deadly attacks on the transit system in 2005.

In an editorial Wednesday, the Guardian newspaper - which obtained the video now in the hands of investigators - said the handling of both cases has been similar, especially with regard to inaccurate statements by police.

The newspaper said it obtained the footage from a New Yorker working in the banking sector who was in London on business.

Police have also been criticized for corralling protesters behind cordons during the demonstrations, cutting them off from drinking water and restroom facilities for extended periods.

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