The family of a man who died after falling into the Thames after police repeatedly fired a Taser at him have called for an investigation into alleged misinformation put out by Scotland Yard.
Oladeji Omishore, 41, clashed with officers on Chelsea Bridge, west London, just after 9am on Saturday 4 June. The Met said they were called to reports of a man clutching a screwdriver who was causing a disturbance.
Shortly afterwards, officers recovered a firelighter from the bridge, but in statements that day and the next, police made no mention of the item recovered being a firelighter rather than a screwdriver.
Omishore, 41, was rescued from the river but died in hospital later that day.
His family on Wednesday said a police watchdog investigation into the force’s handling of the incident should be expanded to include whether the alleged misinformation was an attempt to tarnish the dead man’s reputation.
In a statement put out by the charity Inquest, his parents and siblings said Omishore – known by the nickname “Deji” – had been suffering a mental health crisis and was “vulnerable and frightened”.
He was within sight of his flat on the Embankment, when police were called to reports of him creating a disturbance on the bridge.
The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) on Tuesday corrected the claims Omishore had a screwdriver, which his family said was too slow.
They said the officers – who are being treated as witnesses – should be investigated for misconduct and were concerned that they have been left on active duty.
Omishore used the lighter for his cigarettes, they added.
The statement 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 … 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.”
The family referenced the 2021 IOPC report on the use of Tasers which found that police were more likely to deploy the devices for longer on Black people and, they added, identified increased risks around mental health and their use in dangerous circumstances.
Omishore’s family said their distress was worsened because the first they knew their loved one was in trouble was when they saw a video widely circulated on social media as he fought for life.
The phone camera footage showed some of the scene, in which Omishore came face to face with police, and then after the Taser was fired at him jumping into water below the bridge.
The family’s solicitor, Kate Maynard, 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 IOPC is understood to be considering the family’s concerns.