Belfast Telegraph

PSNI officer who shot thief must take firearms course

By Rebecca Black

A police officer has been ordered to take a firearms course after he shot a fleeing car thief.

The Police Ombudsman initially launched an investigation into an incident in Gilford, Co Down on July 18, 2009 when an officer shot a man as he ran away after abandoning a stolen car.

The case was referred to the Public Prosecution Service, which decided that the officer should be prosecuted for causing grievous bodily harm with intent.

But this case collapsed in February 2013 as a result of the conduct of the injured party in court.

Ombudsman Michael Maguire then recommended formal disciplinary action against the officer which was imposed by the PSNI.

But after the officer appealed, the sanctions were reduced.

Chief Constable George Hamilton has now ordered that the officer undertake a "Judgmental Firearm Training" course.

During the original incident in 2009 the officer claimed he fired as the man was turning round to face him with what looked like a gun in his hand.

However, forensic evidence suggested the man was climbing a fence when he was shot, with his feet off the ground and his back towards the officer.

The events leading up to the shooting began when a man called police to report that his car had been stolen by a man who had called at his house in Craigavon and threatened to light a petrol bomb if the keys were not handed over.

Details of the vehicle were circulated on police radio, and two officers gave chase after seeing it in Gilford.

After a short pursuit, the driver collided with a kerb in a cul-de-sac and ran off towards the rear of nearby houses.

Two officers drew their firearms as they gave chase, taking different directions after they temporarily lost sight of the man.

One of the officers caught sight of him again and ordered him to stop. The officer said the man pointed what looked like a firearm at him, and he reacted by firing a single shot from his police issue pistol.

The shot, fired from a range of about nine metres, struck the man on the left flank.

Forensic examination showed that the bullet entered the man's rear lower waist and exited his front abdomen. The trajectory of the bullet - indicated by a hole in the fence and a strike mark on a wall - suggested his feet had been off the ground at the time.

Two other officers who had seen the man as he ran off were interviewed by Police Ombudsman investigators, but neither recalled that the man had anything in his hands.

The man himself said he had a black handled screwdriver and a chisel in the back pocket of his jeans, but his hands had been on top of the fence when he was shot.

No weapon was found, despite an extensive search of the scene.

Dr Maguire concluded that there was no evidence, other than the statement of the officer who fired the shot, that the man had anything in his hand which could be mistaken for a firearm.

He noted, however, that the officer may have perceived the incident to have been linked to paramilitaries given the circumstances in which the car was stolen and the fact that officers had been briefed about high threat levels from dissident activity in the area.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph