Police Commissioner Stephen Lo on Tuesday defended the shooting of an 18-year-old protester at close range in the chest as “legal and reasonable”, stressing that the officer who opened fire had legitimately felt that his life was threatened.
“The officer was under attack, his life was threatened. He issued a warning to no avail, and with no other option available, used his weapon”, Lo said.
“The officer opened fire to try to get himself, or his colleagues, out of a life-threatening situation. In this very short span of time, he made a decision and shot the assailant. So I believe that was his best judgement at the time, and I think this is reasonable, and legal”, Lo added.
The top cop said the shooting happened after a group of protesters had pushed another officer down on the ground on Tai Ho Road in Tsuen Wan and attacked him, trying to spear him with sharpened sticks.
When his colleagues tried to come to his aid, Lo said, the assailants threw bricks and other hard objects at them. It was during then that the teenager was wounded.
Lo did not answer reporters’ questions on why the officer did not use other non-lethal options available to him – video of the incident shows he was holding a long gun presumably armed with non-lethal rounds in his left hand even as he fired his pistol.
Nor did he address why the officer opened fire at such a short distance, or why he apparently targeted the teenager’s chest instead of his limbs. Video showed the protester was within around an arm’s length away when he was shot.
However, Lo said the force will launch a proper investigation into the shooting.
The Police Commissioner also defended the force's characterisation of the gunshot wound as being in the “area of the left shoulder” – when footage showed the wound to be in the man’s chest.
He said police aren’t medical experts and they don’t have x-rays, so he was merely giving out the best information they had at the time, denying that he was trying to give out any incorrect information.
Lo also revealed that a total of six shots were fired by police on Tuesday, including two warning shots fired by officers who were under attack in Yau Ma Tei.
He said shots were also fired elsewhere in Tsuen Wan and in Wong Tai Sin, but could not offer any more information immediately – including whether officers were firing warning shots, or if they had been aiming at protesters.
The top cop described the day of clashes as “one of the most violent, chaotic days in the history of Hong Kong”. He said more than 180 people were arrested for a variety of offences, including rioting, unlawful assembly, possessing offensive weapons and assaulting police. Twenty-five police officers were among the dozens of people injured.
Lo said he believes the majority of the people who went out onto the streets no longer want to express their beliefs, but only aim to destroy, and attack police officers and other people.
“Today I’m sad”, Lo said.” Our national day is supposed to be a day to celebrate and be happy. But unfortunately some rioters choose to do all these sorts of criminal damages: arsons, woundings, assaulting police officers, and various behaviour which are more or less equivalent to a riot offence.”
Last updated: 2019-10-02 HKT 02:11