Drop the knife or I'll shoot, yelled officer ...moments later a robber lay dying
Published 14/11/2012 | 00:00
An off-duty police officer shouted a warning before opening fire on a criminal who had just robbed a petrol station, an inquest has heard.
He called out “drop the knife or I'll shoot”, eyewitnesses told coroner John Leckey.
Marc Alexander Ringland (29) died in hospital after he was hit in the chest at the east Belfast garage last February.
His family was shown CCTV footage of his death during his inquest at the Old Town Hall in Belfast.
The DVD recording showed Ringland, who had 133 convictions — including for robbery — flash a knife at a shop assistant before helping himself to cash.
He was wearing a striped hooded top with the hood pulled up and had his face partially covered with a mask when he walked behind the counter of the BP filling station on the Albertbridge Road.
Ringland, a father-of-one from Calvin Street in east Belfast, was shot as he made his way out of the premises by an off-duty police officer who had stopped to buy petrol on his way to a night shift.
The policeman, known only as ‘Officer A’, had four years’ service with the PSNI and was not prosecuted in connection with the shooting.
The hearing was told he had completed firearms training in December 2010.
Jeff Smyth, acting director of investigations with the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman's Office, said inquiries had found that no official guidelines had been breached.
Mr Smyth described the death as tragic, but claimed Officer A's actions complied with the PSNI principles to protect human life and uphold the law.
He said the policeman had been interviewed under criminal caution, but there was no evidence to suggest any criminal aspect to the death.
Cash totalling £215 was stolen by Ringland. Shop assistant Karl Elliott (22) said he initially thought he was the subject of a prank.
Ringland was confronted by Officer A as he tried to leave the premises. CCTV footage shows that Ringland did not appear to slow his pace before the policeman discharged one round.
Witnesses recalled hearing a verbal warning before the officer opened fire.
Shop owner Belinda Law said she could clearly make out the words “drop the knife or I'll shoot”.
At the time of his death Ringland had been intoxicated and was almost three times over the legal drink-drive limit.
There were also traces of the drugs cannabis and temazepam in his system.
A post-mortem examination described the cause of death as a bullet wound to the chest.
Coroner Leckey told the jury that Ringland was a man who had problems, including a struggle with alcohol. The hearing continues.
“The use of firearms is a serious business, it's last resort business. Officers are trained to aim for the central body mass. It is lethal force — a last resort.”
Jeff Smyth from the Police Ombudsman's Office