An undercover police officer said he feared he was going to be stabbed to death by Streatham terrorist Sudesh Amman in the seconds before he opened fire at close range.
The officer, known only as BX75 to protect his identity, said he also feared 20-year-old Amman would continue his rampage on members of the public in a busy shop on Streatham High Road, just before he shot at the knife-wielding suspect.
The armed policeman, one of nine covert surveillance officers watching Amman’s movements on February 2 2020, the day he struck, said he “locked eyes” with the suspect as Amman turned to charge at police chasing him up the street.
BX75 told the inquest at the Royal Courts of Justice: “I saw him, he saw me – I am 100% confident we locked eyes.
“It was my immediate assessment I was making my way as fast as possible towards him, him towards me, the point of impact was very, very soon.”
Jonathan Hough QC, counsel to the inquest, asked: “What did you think?”
BX75 said he fired one shot at Amman, near Lidl, but Amman carried on past him.
The inquest previously heard that shot struck the shop window and did not hit the suspect.
BX75 said he gave chase and stopped when Amman turned around and faced him and a colleague.
He said: “Things did slow down. Mr Amman stopped and faced us again – he seemed to be fixated on me.
“We locked eyes, sort of looked at each other.
“The door to Boots behind him was opening and closing.
“He was looking past me over my shoulders, looking to my left, looking to my right, rocking forward as well.
BX75 said he fired two further shots.
He said: “(I thought) that he was going to stab me, attack my colleague, attack anyone who came out of Boots who didn’t know what was going on outside, or turn and go into Boots.
“I was convinced he was making a decision there and then who to attack next.”
He added: “He was so close to me that I was in immediate fear of my life. I fired a shot in his chest area.
“He was moving towards me and to the side. He was in my immediate personal space.
“His action was always going to beat my reaction, if I let him beat my next move.
“Then a colleague fired a shot. Mr Amman remained standing, I saw no visible reaction from him, nothing at all, the threat was still there.
“So I fired a second shot.”
Amman then fell to the ground where he was later pronounced dead.
Footage from the scene captured him sprinting along Streatham High Road with a knife he had stolen from Low Price Store, stabbing a man and a woman as he went, with the two officers giving chase.
He turned to confront the officers outside Boots a minute later where he was shot in the neck and abdomen.
The officers fired six shots between them, with two striking Amman.
Amman had only been released from Belmarsh prison 10 days earlier after serving part of his 40-month sentence for terror offences, despite pleas from police and MI5 to detain him for longer over concerns he remained a danger to the public.
The inquest previously heard how Amman was deemed to be “one of the most dangerous individuals” that police and MI5 teams had investigated.
There was also intelligence that he maintained an extremist mindset, wanted to carry out a knife attack in the future and pledged allegiance to the leader of so-called Islamic State.
Amman, raised in Coventry and Birmingham before moving to Harrow in north-west London, and who was of Sri Lankan descent, spent his short time after being released from custody living in a bail hostel in Streatham, during which time undercover police teams monitoring him remarked on his “concerning” behaviour.
He was seen buying four small bottles of Irn Bru, some parcel tape and kitchen foil from a nearby Poundland on January 31.
It prompted police to call an emergency meeting at which it was decided to ramp up security rather than arrest him amid concerns he might use the materials to fashion a suicide belt.
Amman struck two days later and was found wearing a “crude” explosive device replica, made out of the items he bought at Poundland.
The inquest continues.