Chelsea Bridge death: The family of Oladeji Omishore raise concerns about misinformation 22 June 2022Oladeji “Deji” Omishore died on 4 June 2022 following contact with two Metropolitan Police Officers on Chelsea Bridge, following multiple use of Taser. Deji was within sight of his apartment on the embankment, when the officers apprehended him. A bystander video of Deji being Tasered and subsequently falling into the River Thames was posted on social media and went viral.The family were unaware of Deji’s contact with police or the use of Taser on him, before they saw the video on social media, while he lay dying in hospital. This caused unimaginable distress. It was initially reported in the media that Deji was carrying a screwdriver when he was approached by the police officers. Indeed, the Metropolitan Police put out a press statement at 3.15pm on 4 June referring to Deji being “armed with a screwdriver”. The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) had declared an independent investigation at 2.40pm.On 21 June (yesterday), the IOPC put out a press release correcting the record and confirming that Deji had in fact been carrying a plastic and metal fire lighter and not a screwdriver. Deji used this for lighting his cigarettes. The IOPC failed to inform the family that the object was a lighter (rather than a screwdriver) for more than a week after Deji’s death (on 13 June). The family is concerned about the time it has taken the IOPC to correct the record.The family have urged the IOPC to include the release of misinformation about the screwdriver/cigarette lighter in the terms of reference of their investigation of the police. This context matters. Early reports of any incident stick in the public mind and the police know that full well.The family has also urged the IOPC to investigate the issue as a conduct matter, on the basis that the threshold suggesting contravention of the police conduct regulations is met. The family understands that this will be kept under review.The family are also concerned about reports that the officers involved have not been suspended and remain on active duty. This is in the context of broader public concern and evidence on the disproportionate use of police force and Tasers against Black men, and a longstanding lack of accountability for officers involved in deaths. In a joint statement, the family said: "Deji was a beloved son, brother, friend who was creative, musically gifted and talented. Not only was he caring and funny, he also had a great appreciation for arts, nature and his local neighbourhood. We are deeply distressed by the events leading up to Oladeji's death and are engaging fully in the IOPC investigation to seek answers. We welcome the long overdue correction that all Oladeji had in his possession at the time was a lighter."“Deji was clearly suffering from a mental health crisis and he was vulnerable and frightened. We have set out our concerns to the IOPC about how the officers communicated with him, their repeated use of force on him, and its impact. We have seen the 2021 IOPC report on the use of Taser, which shows clear racial disparity in the use of Tasers within Black and minority communities, and other risk factors in the use of Taser that are relevant to this case (such as increased risks associated with mental health, use of Taser in dangerous circumstances and the use of Taser for compliance purposes). We sincerely hope that the IOPC investigation, and ultimately the inquest, will hold the Metropolitan Police accountable for their actions and also shed further light on the very necessary policy and social justice changes that we need to see to rebuild public confidence and trust in the police.In the meantime, while the investigations are still underway, we are concerned that the officers who had contact with Deji remain on active duty.”Kate Maynard of Hickman and Rose solicitors, who represent the family, said: “In these cases, the early experiences of a bereaved family and any intentional mis-shaping of the narrative in demonising the deceased and a failure to very quickly put the record straight can understandably lead to a lack of trust and faith in the investigations that follow. The family seeks answers as to: Why the MPS put out a press release when the investigation had already been declared independent by the IOPC Why the MPS referred to a screwdriver when the cigarette lighter had been seized by them and was in their possession Why it took so long for the lighter to be handed over by the MPS and/or examined by the IOPC and the (family and) public record corrected.”Selen Cavcav, Senior Caseworker at INQUEST, who is working with the family, said: “Deji’s death is part of a longstanding pattern of the disproportionate use of force against Black men by police, particularly those in mental health crisis.Misinformation and false narratives immediately following a death are a common tactic which deflect attention from serious public concern, and protect police from necessary criticism. These tactics must be independently investigated along with the wider circumstances of the death.We must see truth, justice and accountability for this family. Ongoing risks to the public from dangerous police conduct must also be addressed promptly.”ENDSNOTES TO EDITORSFor more information and a photograph contact Lucy McKay on [email protected] or 07875294225INQUEST is working with the family of Oladeji Omishore following his death. The family is represented by INQUEST Lawyers Group members Kate Maynard and Helen Stone of Hickman & Rose Solicitors.The IOPC are seeking information for their investigation from members of the public who witnessed the incident. Contact the IOPC on 0300 3035579 or email [email protected]TASERS: In August 2021, the Independent Office for Police Conduct published a Review of IOPC cases involving the use of Taser 2015-2020. This evidenced the disproportionate and inappropriate use of Taser against Black people and people with mental ill health. See media release.DISPROPORTIONALITY: Analysis of official data by the BBC showed that in the past 10 years 8% of those who died in custody were racialised as Black, despite representing only 3% of the population. See INQUEST data.