Judge praises bravery of police officer who restrained 'gunman' in Larne

Judge praises bravery of police officer who restrained 'gunman' in Larne

A JUDGE has praised a police officer who wrestled a 'gunman' to the ground in Larne.

District Judge Nigel Broderick said the man was "lucky" he wasn't shot by police who responded to a report that he pointed a gun at a person sitting in a vehicle.

Details emerged at Ballymena Magistrates Court on Thursday where Andrew Pennie (26), of Ballycraigy Ring in Larne, admitted charges of assault and disorderly behaviour arising out of the incident in the Linn Road area at 4.45pm on October 18 last year.

A charge of possession of an 'imitation firearm - an airsoft gun' - with intent to cause fear of violence' was withdrawn by prosecutors.

A prosecutor said police responded to a report of a man in possession of a 'handgun' after a man said he had the gun pointed at him as he sat in a vehicle at Linn Road in Larne.

It was reported the suspect had the handgun in the rear of his waistband.

The prosecutor said police identified the suspect and when instructed to "show his hands," his "left hand reached to the rear of his waistband" but when he was "engaged by an officer from his blind side the defendant dropped what looked like a black handgun".

District Judge Nigel Broderick said: "It is lucky he wasn't shot. He was told to come to compliance and he reaches for what police thought was a gun".

The prosecutor said Pennie struggled with officers and it was established he had a BB pellet gun "although that wasn't known at the time and police believed it was a live firearm until it was cleared".

The defendant was placed in a police car where he was verbally abusive and spat at an officer.

The court was told a "sizeable public crowd had gathered" and Pennie "appeared to enjoy the attention and began shouting verbal abuse".

When interviewed the defendant said he had the 'airsoft pistol' and that he was "heading airsofting with his friends".

When asked about being disorderly Pennie told police he had been "rapping" and "an officer even told me I was good at it".

A defence barrister said: "One can only imagine the fear that would have been struck into this member of the public observing the defendant as he presented that day in the centre of Larne. It was terrifying no doubt for those who witnessed it and the man to whom that gun was pointed."

He said Pennie, who had drink taken, was "very fortunate" not to have been the subject of "far more severe action" from police.

Judge Broderick said a police officer had to be "commended" for his bravery in taking the defendant to the ground.

He said the officer saw the defendant reaching into the rear of his waistband and was "very concerned that he was going to arm himself".

Judge Broderick added that "fortunately" the defendant didn't realise the officer was behind him and the officer "was able to take him to the ground and prevent what could have been a much more serious incident".

The judge said the officer "should be commended for his quick thinking and bravery".

He added:"These things all seem very simple in the cold light of day when they are analysed at a slow pace but when an officer attends at a scene with limited information and they have only got a split second to make a decision ... (the officer) ... thankfully made the right decision and was able to physically restrain the defendant".

The judge said police at the time had to consider it a real gun which "could have discharged a lethal bullet".

Judge Broderick added: "The victim would have been severely traumatised having a weapon pointed at him because again they were not to know the nature of the weapon and the fact that it was a BB gun"

Handing down a four months jail sentence, suspended for two years, the judge told Pennie: "Consider yourself very lucky not only with the court sentence but lucky at how the police dealt with you".