Met cops knelt on man’s neck in case ‘identical’ to George Floyd’s, says lawyer

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A LAWYER representing a man who had his neck knelt on as he was arrested said it was “identical” to what happened to George Floyd in America.

Shocking footage taken on Thursday showed Marcus Coutain, 47, who was handcuffed, yelling “get off my neck” as he was arrested in Islington, north London.

He could be seen trying to wriggle from under the officer’s knee as he pleaded, “I haven’t done anything wrong”, while another cop held his legs.

Concerned members of the public surrounded the officer and his colleague and pleaded with them to stop as they restrained the visibly-distressed man.

One horrified witnesses cried: “That’s a human being.”

After several seconds, the officer finally took his knee off the suspect – then told one onlooker to “shut it” when criticised over his use of force.

It is the use of what I would regard as excessive force, a knee being placed on his neck references which mirror exactly what happened to George Floyd in America.

Speaking outside court, Timur Rustem said his client was “very distressed and very confused and not quite sure why he was targeted in this way”.

He has demanded that Scotland Yard apologise to Coutain for the treatment.

He said his client was searched for drugs after he matched the description of “someone involved in an attack” before charges were brought for having a knife.

He told reporters: “Essentially Mr Coutain was stopped and searched for matters for which he has not been charged.

“It is the use of what I would regard as excessive force, a knee being placed on his neck … references which mirror exactly what happened to George Floyd in America.

“A man saying ‘I can’t breathe’ and ‘get your knee off my neck’, while he was already handcuffed and while he was restrained by two police officers.”

The incident happened when officers were called to reports of a fight in Isledon Road around 6.30pm.

The police watchdog is investigating the manner of the arrest, which has resulted in one Metropolitan Police officer being suspended and another placed on restricted duties.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan and Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds welcomed the watchdog probe.

Marcus Coutain, 45, was charged with possession of a knife in a public place. He will appear at Highbury Corner magistrates court on Saturday.

The Met said the arrested man was taken to a police station and was seen by a police doctor.

The Met’s Directorate of Professional Standards (DPS) carried out an assessment of the arrest.

A police spokesman said: “We are aware of a video showing part of this wider incident where two officers have detained the man on the ground and appreciate this looks very concerning.

“This footage has been viewed, along with body worn footage from the officers who attended. Both officers involved have also provided statements.

A spokesman for the Met said after the clip went viral on social media: “Our officers understand that their actions will be scrutinised as they go about their work and that the public have the right to hold them to account where appropriate.”

Sir Steve House, Deputy Commissioner, called the video “extremely disturbing”.

The video footage that I have seen today and is circulating on social media is extremely disturbing.

He said: “The video footage that I have seen today and is circulating on social media is extremely disturbing. I understand that many viewing the footage will share my concern.

“The man involved was arrested, taken to a police station and has now been seen by a police doctor.

“Some of the techniques used cause me great concern – they are not taught in police training.

“We have quickly assessed the incident, including the body worn video footage from the officers and their statements and justification for their use of force. As a result we have referred the matter to the IOPC.

“One officer has been suspended and another officer has been removed from operational duty, but not suspended at this time. This decision will be kept under review.

“We will co-operate fully with the IOPC investigation.”

“The officers’ initial interaction with the man and the events that led to him being detained have also been analysed.”

Dramatic footage of the incident in London filmed by an anonymous witness circulated on social media yesterday.

It shows an officer pinning the suspect to the pavement with his knee on his head, telling him to “stay down” – while a colleague restrains the man’s legs.

The handcuffed suspect appears in great discomfort and shouts “get off my neck” as he struggles to pull his head free.

The officer continues to kneel on him and asks: “Are you gonna behave yourself?” To which he replies: “I ain’t done anything wrong.”

Several members of the public plead with the officer to “stay calm” and urge him to take his knee away from the man’s neck.

The officer removes his knee and orders bystanders to “back up” – before telling one to “shut it” when they challenge him.

The officer continues to use his hand to force the suspect’s head down as he writhes on the concrete, and witnesses plead with everybody to “relax”.

The first officer then stands up and walks towards the crowd, ordering them back – as a woman shouts: “That’s a human being. Do not press on his head.”

The second officer eventually allows the suspect to sit up and the man filming says: “Thank you, officer.”

A second clip shows several more police officers arriving on the scene as tension among the crowd escalates.

Witnesses tell the newly arrived officers that they have been videoing the incident and urge them to “arrest the officer”.

A woman heard giving a statement to a constable says: “It’s okay to arrest him but don’t push his head and then kneel on him. It might kill him, it might injure him.”

Another officer is then heard telling the crowd that the suspect “matches the description” of a male they were searching for, before the footage cuts out.

A police spokesman said: “Our officers carry out their duty on a daily basis across London in often difficult circumstances.

“Where force is used, officers must be able to justify this as lawful, proportionate and necessary.

“Our officers understand that their actions will be scrutinised as they go about their work and that the public have the right to hold them to account where appropriate.”

In May, the death of George Floyd, 46, sparked worldwide Black Lives Matter protests after a video showed Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on his neck and back as he pleaded for his life.

Chauvin, who was charged with second-degree murder, and fellow officers Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao were arresting Mr Floyd.

The three other officers have also been charged over Mr Floyd’s death.

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