Officers right to use TASER after violent suspect appeared to reach for weapon

Published Date: Jan 2017

Police were right to use a TASER stun gun against a man they believed was reaching for a weapon, an investigation by the Police Ombudsman’s Office has concluded.

The incident happened in Derry/Londonderry in March 2015 after police went to the man’s flat to arrest him in connection with a reported offence.

While on their way to the flat, officers were warned that the man was armed with two knives and had a history of self harming and violence and of having access to firearms.

Local response officers were first to attend, and together with officers from a Tactical Support Group, they cordoned off the area.

As they were doing that, they said the suspect leaned out of a first floor window, shouted abuse and threatened to shoot them.

They also described him as being emotionally distressed and volatile – crying one moment and shouting out aggressively the next.

At one stage he was reported to have attempted to climb out of a widow, and was also seen holding a knife to his throat and striking furniture with an iron bar. Officers said their attempts to negotiate with him failed due to this “irrational behaviour.”

Officers described the man's behaviour as "irrational".

He was reported to have become even more aggressive and erratic once an armed police unit arrived. Officers said he urged them to shoot him, and threw items including a glass of urine and part of a satellite dish.

A number of officers also recalled seeing him holding a “lock box” similar to those used for storing firearms, and said he had on a number of occasions made a motion to intimate that he had a gun in the rear of his waistband.

After a long period of negotiation, officers reported that the man suddenly appeared at the ground floor entrance to his flat. He was bare-chested, had a large bottle in his left hand, and had his right hand hidden in the small of his back.

Officers said he ignored their orders to stand still and instead lunged and kicked out at them before kicking an officer’s shield, stepping back and reaching with his right hand towards the rear of his waistband.

An officer then discharged TASER. He later told Police Ombudsman investigators that the situation had been extremely high risk as the man was actively confronting police and may have been reaching for a knife or gun.

He added that the situation required an immediate response, and said that trying to restrain the man or using CS Spray would not have been practical solution.

The Police Ombudsman, Dr Michael Maguire, concluded that the use of TASER was justified, proportionate and necessary, noting that negotiating with him had failed and that other tactics had been considered and ruled out before TASER was used.  

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