Mzee Mohammed death: Liverpool mayor promises transparent inquiry
Mohammed, 18, died after being detained by police at shopping centre following reports he had a knife.
The mayor of Liverpool has sought to reassure the public that an investigation into the death of a black teenager who had been detained by police will be fully transparent, following a weekend of protests in Liverpool and London.
Mzee Mohammed, 18, died on Wednesday evening after being detained by Merseyside police at the Liverpool One shopping centre. Officers were called to the scene following unconfirmed reports that Mohammed had a knife and was behaving in an “aggressive and erratic manner”.
Police said they called an ambulance once it became clear that Mohammed was suffering “a medical episode”, and he was pronounced dead about an hour and a half later at Royal Liverpool University hospital.
The mayor, Joe Anderson, acknowledged that the death had caused tension between the black community and the authorities in the city, and said: “The bottom line for me is that I will ensure – and [the police and crime commissioner] Jane Kennedy and the chief constable will also ensure – that there will be transparency around the [Independent Police Complaints Commission] investigation.
“There will be nothing that is left out. The family will get to know first, rightly, what is there and there will be no attempt by anybody, as far as I’m concerned, to cover up.”
Merseyside police said they received a call at around 6pm on Wednesday reporting that a young man had run into a house in the Toxteth area of Liverpool in a distressed state and left the address when he was seen by the occupier. Police then received further calls from the public describing a man with a knife at a number of locations throughout the city centre.
Members of the public told the Liverpool Echo that they saw Mohammed at the shopping centre, barefoot and with a 12-inch knife, where he reportedly threatened a group of teenage girls before stumbling over.
The shopping centre’s security staff detained Mohammed before the police arrived about 6.30pm.
Merseyside police said the teenager was behaving in a way that made officers “more concerned about his own wellbeing rather than the damage he could do”.
A police spokesperson said an ambulance was called shortly after their arrival and Mohammed was taken to hospital, where he was pronounced dead by doctors at 7.53pm.
Mohammed was last seen by his family at 1.30pm, and his mother called emergency services to report him missing at around 10pm. The family were informed of the teenager’s death at around 1.30am.
In video footage that has emerged since Mohammed’s death, he is seen lying face down, barefoot, surrounded by paramedics and a large number of police officers. He appears unconscious and has his hands cuffed behind his back.
Investigators from the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) have taken statements from all the officers involved in the incident and they met Mohammed’s family on Friday to talk about their investigation.
Mohammed’s family said that although the 18-year-old had been in trouble with the police before, he had sought to turn his life around, going back to college to get GCSEs in maths and English and aspiring to work as a chef. His mother, Karla, said her son was fit and healthy, did not take drugs and had no pre-existing medical conditions.
Speaking at a Black Lives Matter protest in Liverpool on Saturday that was attended by 300 people, Mohammed’s mother said: “Anyone who had a hand in my boy’s death will be brought to justice. My son will not be a number or a statistic. His death will not be in vain.”
Marcia Rigg, whose brother Sean died following a cardiac arrest while in police custody on 21 August 2008, attended a protest in London on Sunday in honour of Mohammed, and said seeing the video of him surrounded by police officers and paramedics brought back memories of her brother’s death.
She said that eight years on, lessons had not been learned. “I was alarmed that he [Mohammed] appears to be fully unconscious, but his handcuffs haven’t been removed,” she said. “How can you bring someone medical attention when they’re in handcuffs?”
Rigg said the decision to keep his handcuffs on behind his back would have restricted his breathing and prevented him from being put in the recovery position. “The IPCC should be seen to be cooperating and sympathetic with the family,” she said. “And officers and staff need to be interviewed in full, under caution, now. Officers would have had ample time to collude by now.”
Results of the initial postmortem were inconclusive and more tests, including toxicology checks, will be carried out. Mohammed will be buried in Jamaica.
Mayor Anderson said: “If I were to say to you that there were no problems with racism in Merseyside police, I would be saying something that I wasn’t confident about. But I would say that about Liverpool city council and I would say that about other institutions, so it would be wrong to single out the police.”