The inquest into George Nkencho’s death is expected to examine the broader issue of policing the black community in Ireland, a coroner has said.
The submission was made in Dublin Coroner’s Court as the inquest opened into the death of the 27-year-old, who was shot dead by gardaí outside his home in Clonee on December 30.
The investigation has now been adjourned until an investigation into the shooting has been concluded by the Garda Síochána (Gsoc) Ombudsman Commission and any subsequent referral to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
Gsoc lead investigator Stuart Duguid said the investigation was “partly” over and the aim was to conclude it before the anniversary of Mr Nkencho’s death.
Mr. Nkencho died after being shot by the Garda’s armed support unit outside his home shortly after assaulting a shop worker. He was armed with a kitchen knife and suffered from mental health issues in the previous months.
Coroner Dr. Myra Cullinane read aloud pathological evidence that Mr. Nkencho died of “multiple gunshot wounds to the trunk without contributing factors.” The court also learned how Mr. Nkencho was formally identified the day after his death by a relative appointed to liaise with the authorities.
Lawyer Seán Rafter, who represents the Nkencho family, asked the court not only to consider the specific circumstances of Mr. Nkencho’s death, but to examine the “broader circumstances of a young black man who died at the hands of of a white policeman ”.
The inquiry is expected to examine “broader issues of law enforcement and discrimination,” Rafter said, adding that Nkencho’s death had “resonated” with others internationally. He said the family were also concerned about the “nasty rumors and lies” that have spread online in the wake of Mr Nkencho’s death.
Dr Cullinane said the request was perhaps somewhat premature, but that it would grant these matters “knowledge of assessments while remaining within my powers under the Coroners Act.”
The coroner expressed her “deepest condolences for the very tragic circumstances of George’s death. The court sympathizes with you.
She explained that the coroner’s role is to review deaths that occur in sudden, unexpected or unnatural circumstances. The coroner’s job is to establish the facts rather than blame, she said.
Dr Cullinane has adjourned the investigation until December 14, 2021, when she will hear an update on the Gsoc investigation.
After the investigation, Mr Nkencho’s sister, Grateful, said it was a “heartbreaking day for our family, a day we never imagined having to go through”.
She said opening the investigation was a necessary step, but brought “the horror of what happened to George right on our doorstep.”
“The most serious of things”
She said shooting a person by gardaí “is the most serious business in Ireland” and it “can never, ever happen again”.
Ms Nkencho asked why skilled negotiators could not be used before her brother’s death, as happened in a siege incident in Blanchardstown last month in which a man shot Gardaí and was subsequently arrested unharmed.
“All we want is a full investigation to bring out the truth and justice.”
Ms Nkencho said the government had accepted their request to create a local diversity forum in Blanchardstown.
Outside of the investigation, which was held at RDS Dublin to take social distancing into account, a group of 30 to 40 protesters gathered in support of the Nkencho family. Speeches were given by former TD Ruth Coppinger and other activists and the crowd chanted “Justice for George”.