Friday 6 November 2009

Police car ran over Birmingham man who died in custody, inquest told

The folowing report on the inquest into the death of Mikey Powell is from the Birmingham Post:

A witness has described seeing a police car run into a man who later died in police custody.

Michael Powell died six years ago in a prison cell at Thornhill Road Police Station after being arrested for smashing windows and violent behaviour outside his family home in Lozells.

His family have maintained that heavy-handed behaviour on the part of police prior to his death was racially motivated.

Speaking at an inquest into his death Ernest Walters, a family friend who was dating Mr Powell’s sister, said he saw the 38-year-old standing in front of a police car when it revved its engine and ran him over, causing him to be flipped up on to the bonnet of the car before rolling off the roof.

Mr Walters said he had arrived at the the family’s home at about midnight on September 6, 2003, and had become suspicious when he saw Mr Powell walking away from the property which had a broken front window. He saw that he had blood on his shirt and a belt with a large metal buckle wrapped around his hand.

Mr Walters said that when police arrived he saw Michael break the car window before it sped off, but said it returned and after a stand off with Michael, ran into him.

He said Michael was able to stand up and again approached the police car.

“At that point I didn’t want anything else to happen to him, so I grabbed him from behind,” he said.

“I shouted at the police to come and hold him and restrain him, to put some handcuffs on him because he was not well.

“But when they came closer I saw what they had in their hands I realised they hadn’t come to help him.”

Mr Powell was later hit with a baton and sprayed with CS gas before being taken to a cell where he was later found not breathing. Judy Powell, Michael’s sister, who also gave evidence at the inquest at Sutton Coldfield Town Hall, reiterated the family’s stance that police action was racially motivated.

She said: “If it was a white person and they saw the blood they would have taken him straight to hospital and sorted him out and found out what was going on. Because he was black they threw him in the van like he was an inhuman being.”

The inquest also heard from Miss Powell that she suspected her brother had been taking crack cocaine and heroin. A fact that she had not reported to police.

She also confirmed that he had suffered from previous “episodes” which had resulted in him going into a residential care unit and receiving care in the community.

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