Published Date: 21.11.2012
The Police Ombudsman’s Office has found that the actions of a police officer, who shot dead a member of the public in a filling station in East Belfast, were justified and proportionate, given the threat he believed he faced.
The off duty police officer confronted Marc Ringland, who was 29 years old, in a garage on the Albertbridge Road on the evening of 3 February, 2011 and discharged one round from his personal protection weapon, fatally injuring him.
Police Ombudsman staff, who arrived at the filling station very shortly after the shooting, initiated an investigation which included a detailed forensic examination of the scene and the key exhibits, including video footage of the garage forecourt and the shop. They spoke to those who were in the garage at the time of the shooting and those who arrived shortly afterwards and tested their accounts against the information they had already gathered.
What emerged from the CCTV, witness and forensic evidence was a clear and consistent sequence of events.
The CCTV footage showed Mr. Ringland entering the filling station, walking behind the counter, producing a knife and taking a sum of cash from the till.
The footage shows that the off-duty officer walked into the garage, raised his firearm and pointed it towards Mr. Ringland, who at that stage was walking down an aisle towards him
Man raised knife before shot was fired.
Mr. Ringland had the knife in his right hand, which was down by his side, but as he continued to walk towards the officer he began to move the knife upwards from below waist height. The footage shows the officer discharging one shot
The police officer told Police Ombudsman investigators that he drew his gun, identified himself as a police officer and ordered Mr Ringland to drop the knife. The officer said Mr Ringland continued to walk towards him. He said he was uncertain as to whether the automated entrance/exit door had closed behind him, so he could not move backwards, and to move forwards would have placed him closer to the knife. The officer said he feared he would be stabbed and had no other option but to fire.
The witnesses varied in their accounts as to the specific wording of the verbal warning issued by the officer, but all agreed that he identified himself as a police officer and warned Mr. Ringland to put down the knife or he would be shot
The Police Ombudsman, Dr Michael Maguire, has described the incident as tragic:
“I recognise that this is a personal tragedy for the Ringland family. To lose a loved one so young and so suddenly must be a particularly heavy burden to bear.
My role, however, has been to independently examine the circumstances of Marc’s death. There is evidence that as Marc approached the officer, his knife presented a clear threat. The officer had a split second to decide what action to take. Given the threat he believed he was facing, as well as the potential danger to others, the officer’s decision to fire his gun was understandable and justified, “said Dr Maguire.