Ballymena man phoned police to say he was in 'gun fight with ten masked men who were shooting at him with AK47s'

Ballymena man phoned police to say he was in 'gun fight with ten masked men who were shooting at him with AK47s'

A BALLYMENA man who phoned police at 3am claiming he was in the middle of a gun-fight with ten masked men who had AK47 rifles in the town's Dunclug area later said he must have been hallucinating.

Details emerged at the town's Magistrates Court where Ciaran McKeown (27), now with an address in north Belfast, admitted charges of carrying an imitation gun in a public place and possessing a knife.

A prosecutor said McKeown called police at 2.50am on December 7 last year with the defendant phoned police stating there were "ten men in the Dunclug Park area with balaclavas and that they were looking for him and that they had been shooting AK47s at him and he stated that he had a 9 mil in his pocket and was shooting back".

The prosecutor said there were no other calls to police in relation to shots being fired in the area and nobody was present when officers responded.

However, as the PSNI were leaving Dunclug Park they saw McKeown walking by. He threw a black object to the side of the road and when the area was searched police found a small black "pellet-type gun". When the defendant was searched he had a knife with a three to four inches long.

When arrested he told police he "must have been hallucinating and he indicated he had suicidal thoughts and he had taken some drugs and alcohol that night".

The firearm was found to be an imitation, the prosecutor said.

A defence solicitor said it was a "small black pellet gun".

He said it was a "bizarre" incident "and if ever there was a clear demonstration of the effects of drug abuse on a person's mental health this case is an example of it".

He said McKeown had struggled with alcohol and drugs and had spent much of his adult life in jail.

However, since December there had been no further incidents, the lawyer said.

He said the defendant is now living at a hostel in Belfast.

The court heard the defendant had only been out of jail a couple of weeks before the Ballymena incident.

He urged the judge to take "a chance" and give McKeown Probation and "prevent him from spending the rest of his life in prison".

District Judge Nigel Broderick said they were serious matters "because you were in possession of a pellet gun and a knife in quite bizarre circumstances".

He said the defendant had a "very poor criminal record" and "not without some hesitation I'm minded to impose a Probation Order with two conditions and a warning to you that if you breach this Order the high likelihood is that the Order would then be revoked and you would receive an immediate custodial sentence".

The judge put the defendant on Probation for a year with conditions that he would attend any treatment programme and engage with any programme of work necessary to address his offending.

Judge Broderick added: "You are getting a chance here Mr McKeown so if you don't take it you have only yourself to blame".