Armed police who shot the Fishmongers’ Hall terror attacker after he stabbed two Cambridge graduates have recalled the moment they thought they were going to die after seeing the suspect was wearing a suicide belt.
The officers, who cannot be named to protect their identities, each told an inquest jury they had to make split-second decisions to open fire on 28-year-old jihadi Usman Khan.
Body worn footage showed Khan, who was pinned to the ground on London Bridge by members of the public, telling them “I’ve got a bomb”, prompting an officer known only as YX99 to stand back and shoot amid fears the device would detonate and cause mass casualties.
Giving evidence to the inquest into Khan’s death on Thursday, YX99 said his first thought was that Khan was “selfish” for wanting to be killed by police.
He said: “I was slightly stunned.
“I was thinking… you want to kill yourself and you want me to do it.
“You start thinking of all different outcomes and what you’re going to do.
“I instinctively used my hand to touch his torso.
“Your thoughts are going through your mind that if someone’s mentally ill, you’ve just shot someone unarmed and on the floor… that’s playing on your mind.”
Asked whether he thought the device was viable, the officer replied: “In that moment I thought it was 100% real.”
The inquest heard he shot Khan twice, within a second, and then withdrew while the attacker lay injured on the ground.
He said: “At that point, I presumed I killed him.”
He told the inquest he opened fire because he thought Khan was going to detonate the bomb in front of crowds of people on London Bridge that Friday afternoon.
“I thought we were going to die from that close,” he said.
Another officer, who can only be known as WS5, said he feared the worst when he saw Khan was wearing a suicide belt.
He said: “If you’d seen films you would have believed it was a viable device – various packages of cigarette packet size, tape, wires coming out.
“To me, it looked viable and real.
“When I was in his face, in his personal space, I remember him shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ (meaning ‘God is great’) at me.
“At that point I thought, ‘That’s it, I’m not going home to see my family or my friends either’.”
WS5 said he later recalled Khan sitting bolt upright, minutes after he was initially shot.
The officer said: “I remember in disbelief he kind of sat up, which threw me and us all, how he’s still moving around and sitting up.”
It was at this point that WS5 opened fire.
He said: “I remember taking various shots.
“I looked through my sight, it went to his forehead.
“He (Khan) put his hand to his head in disbelief and so I went for central body mass.”
Another officer, known as R158, took only one shot at Khan, shortly before he ceased moving.
The officer told jurors: “It was my honestly held belief he (Khan) was trying to kill more people and I needed to take a shot.
“I remember the realisation that I’m gonna have to fire a shot.”
He said the shot struck Khan in his back, causing him to “jerk forward” then fall to the ground.
Six officers fired 20 shots during a 10-minute period, although there was a lengthy gap between the first two shots and the remaining 18.
Khan was pronounced dead around an hour later, once the scene had been made safe.
The device was later found to be a fake, composed of items he bought in his home town of Stafford the week before the attack.
Asked by Fiona Barton QC, for City of London Police, whether he thought the device was capable of causing an explosion and a threat to life, WS5 replied: “I believed it to be a viable device and if I hadn’t neutralised it at the time I believed we would all be dead.”
Khan stabbed Cambridge graduates Jack Merritt, 25, and Saskia Jones, 23, to death at a prisoner education event at Fishmongers’ Hall on November 29 2019, having been released from jail nearly a year earlier after serving eight years for plotting a jihadi training camp in Pakistan.
The inquest continues at Guildhall in the City of London.