Officer justified in using TASER against man reported to have gun

Published Date: Dec 2016

The Police Ombudsman has concluded that police were justified in using a TASER stun gun when a man they believed to have a gun charged towards them during an incident in Antrim town in June 2016.

The man, who was under the influence of drink and/or drugs, had earlier made threats to self harm and to kill police officers.

Police had also been warned that he had access to a pistol, crossbow and hunting knife.

The incident began about two and a half hours earlier when the man made a 999 call to ask police to come to Antrim Area Hospital. It was not clear why he needed police assistance, but he was located by a police patrol who brought him to the local station. Officers recorded that he was highly intoxicated.

A short time later they received a call from a Community Psychiatric Nurse who said a priest had warned her that the man had been talking about taking his own life.

The man subsequently ran out of the police station. Police called his mobile phone, but he refused to say where he was.  They also called his father, who said his son had been threatening to self-harm and had access to a crossbow, a pistol and a 9” hunting knife.

When police called him again he was at home but warned police to stay away as he had weapons and would use them against officers and then himself. 

Within minutes police tasked an Armed Response Unit. Checks also revealed that the man had a history of self-harm, as well as convictions for assault and threats to kill.

Officers arrived at the scene and forced entry to the man’s house. Having shouted a warning of “armed police” the officers said the man appeared at the top of the stairs, pointed a crossbow at his head and said: “I’m going to kill myself, don’t come any closer or I’ll shoot you.”

Man told officers: "Don't come any closer or I'll shoot you."

Two officers said they tried unsuccessfully to negotiate with him before he suddenly dropped the crossbow and charged down the stairs towards them.

The officer who used TASER said he was conscious that the man might have a gun and believed there to be a real and immediate threat to life. He said the TASER was discharged from a distance of about three metres, striking the man in the mid torso.

The officer then caught the man as he fell forward. He was then taken into police custody and given medical treatment.

A crossbow, baton and imitation firearm were recovered by police in a follow up search of the man’s house.

The officer who used the TASER was found to have been properly trained and authorised to use the weapon at the time of the incident.

The Police Ombudsman, Dr Michael Maguire also noted that the accounts of the incident provided by the officer and his colleagues were supported by radio transmissions, police incident logs and the audio of the 999 call.

He concluded that the use of TASER had been lawful, proportionate and necessary.

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