A police firearms officer is being investigated for potential homicide offences over the fatal shooting of a 31-year-old man in Coventry nearly three years ago.
The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) had previously said the officer was not the subject of a criminal investigation relating to the death of Sean Fitzgerald.
In a statement on Monday confirming a criminal inquiry is now under way, the IOPC said the West Midlands Police officer had been advised they are “being investigated for potential homicide offences”.
IOPC regional director Derrick Campbell said: “This complex investigation is nearing conclusion.
“Following a review of all of the evidence obtained and the receipt of legal advice, we have revisited our position on potential criminal conduct.
“This does not mean that criminal charges will necessarily follow. At the conclusion of our investigation, we will decide whether to refer the matter to the Crown Prosecution Service to consider whether any charge(s) should be brought.
“The officer and Mr Fitzgerald’s family have been advised of this development.
“This was a tragic incident that led to a man losing his life and our thoughts remain with all of those affected by Mr Fitzgerald’s death.”
Mr Fitzgerald, who was unarmed, died from a single gunshot wound to the chest after leaving a property in Burnaby Road at about 6.20pm on January 4 2019.
The victim’s family expressed shock in April last year that the officer involved had been served with a gross misconduct notice but not a notice regarding criminal investigation.
Commenting on the news of a criminal inquiry, Liam Fitzgerald, Sean’s brother, said: “I welcome the decision of the IOPC to conduct a homicide investigation into my brother’s death.
“From very soon after Sean’s death, it has been my belief that this should have been a criminal investigation. I now hope that the investigation is concluded quickly and that a decision to bring criminal charges will follow.”
Solicitor Helen Stone, who is acting for Liam Fitzgerald, said: “It is now over three years since Sean’s death, and his family still do not have answers.
“However, we consider the fact that the IOPC are now investigating homicide offences to be a positive development, and trust that the IOPC will act swiftly to complete their investigation in a robust manner and in close coordination with the Crown Prosecution Service to ensure there is no delay in reaching a charging decision.”
Shortly after the shooting, the IOPC said it had verified that a single round was discharged by a firearms officer as Mr Fitzgerald emerged from the rear of the property, while other officers were gaining entry at the front.
No firearms were recovered from the property.