LONDON - A week after a Londoner's sudden death at a rally he apparently never wanted to be part of, his strange case is raising difficult questions for the capital's police.

Ian Tomlinson, a burly 47-year-old newspaper vendor, was trying to make his way home after work April 1 when he, seemingly inadvertently, got caught up in the sporadic clashes between police and protesters drawn by the Group of 20 economic summit.

Initial autopsy reports indicated he died of a heart attack, and police said the protesters had hampered their attempt to revive him. The inference was that the police had nothing to do with his demise.

But new footage being examined by the Independent Police Complaints Commission paints a different picture, casting police in a more aggressive light.

The footage, whose authenticity is not being challenged by police, shows officers with batons and dogs on leashes approaching Tomlinson as he tries to walk away with his hands in his pockets. One officer then pushes Tomlinson to the ground, where he strikes the pavement hard. It is not clear from the footage if there was any provocation for the police action.

Tomlinson was able to get up with the help of an unidentified man, but collapsed and died several minutes later.

Deborah Glass, deputy commissioner of the Independent Police Complaints Commission, said Wednesday that because of the new footage the commission will begin an independent investigation to consider whether criminal charges should be fired.

"This footage is clearly disturbing," she said. Before the footage surfaced, the commission had been planning a so-called managed inquiry conducted by police under the commission's guidance.

"In light of new information which we became aware of yesterday evening, we have now taken the decision to independently investigate," she said.

She said the investigation is focused on identifying the police officers in the footage, adding that several have already come forward.

"All efforts are being made to trace those who haven't," she said.

She said the commission had also ordered a second post-mortem investigation of Tomlinson's body.

Metropolitan Police Chief Paul Stephenson said Wednesday the video "raises obvious concerns" and must be fully investigated. He promised police would co-operate with the inquiry.

The incident is already sparking comparisons in the media and among advocacy groups to the police killing of Jean Charles de Menezes, an innocent Brazilian who was shot dead on a London Underground train by police who were looking for terrorists after deadly attacks on the London transit system in 2005.

In an editorial Wednesday, the Guardian newspaper - which obtained the video footage now in the hands of investigators - said the handling of both cases has been similar, especially with regard to inaccurate statements by police.

"As in the shooting case, the police seem to have briefed the media before they had taken witness statements and to have made allegations to the media which simply do not stand up as a true or responsible version of what took place," the newspaper said.

The newspaper said it obtained the footage from a New Yorker working in the banking sector who was in London on business. The man, who was not identified, was quoted by the newspaper as saying he felt Tomlinson's family was not getting the information it deserved.

Medical experts say there is ample evidence that increased stress can lead to a sudden heart attack in someone who already has some narrowing of the coronary arteries.

"I have no idea what happened in this case," said Dr. Charles Knight, secretary of the British Cardiovascular Society. "But we recognize that severe stress can trigger a heart attack."

The police have also been criticized for corralling protesters behind cordons during the demonstrations, cutting them off from drinking water and rest room facilities for extended periods.

Tomlinson's family has asked anyone with more information to come forward.

Paul King, Tomlinson's stepson, told BBC radio that his stepfather was not involved in the protest and had left his workplace about a half hour before he died.

"The whole family is devastated," he said, adding that any small bits of evidence that are produced may help the family get the complete picture about events that night.

The police complaints commission must now determine whether to recommend criminal charges, disciplinary action, or no action at all against the officers involved.

A spokeswoman who asked not to be identified because of commission policy said the commission will determine the lines of inquiry but that the actual investigation will be carried out by police.

If the commission favours criminal charges, it would recommend this course to the Crown Prosecution Service, which would then decide whether to proceed, she said.

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