Two unarmed police officers have been praised by a judge for their courage and professionalism after tackling a drunken man as he reached for a loaded shotgun.
The two officers had bravely gone into John McCallion’s home after relatives had alerted the police over concerns for his safety after hearing him unlock his shotgun cabinet.
Following a trial at Warwick Crown Court, McCallion (47) of Beacon Road, Holbrooks, Coventry, was cleared of possessing a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence, which he denied.
But Judge Richard Griffith-Jones stressed: “That verdict I very much doubt reflects any adverse indication towards the evidence of the officers.”
Prosecutor Edward Hollingsworth had told the jury that late on Saturday April 29 last year the police received a phone call from members of McCallion’s family expressing ‘concerns about him and concerns for him.’
They said they had been at McCallion’s home where he was ‘in a bit of a state,’ and was drunk and appeared to be very angry and distressed.
They said they knew he had a shotgun, quite lawfully, in the house, and thought they heard him opening the shotgun cabinet, so they had left, deciding it was best to call the police.
“Two officers, Pc Meade and Pc Jones, go to the address and knock on the door. The door is opened and Mr McCallion is there. He appears to be in drink.”
It was because of the concerns for his welfare that the two unarmed officers had gone to the house, rather than an armed response team being brought in.
They followed McCallion, whose mood seemed flat and emotionless, into the living room where they saw the shotgun, which was loaded with two cartridges, on a footstool.
The barrels were closed, and Mr Hollingsworth observed: “Effectively it was ready to fire.”
He alleged: “Without warning he reaches down and picks up that shotgun. He has hold of it with one hand on the grip near the trigger and one hand holding the barrel, and he brings it up to waist height and turns it towards the officers.
“They believed they were going to be shot, and reacted immediately. One of them grabbed hold of the shotgun. The other took hold of Mr McCallion, and he was handcuffed and arrested.”
Pc Lee Jones explained: “We were given the information that the defendant was in some sort of emotional state, and his relatives had fled the address.
“The door was opened a crack by the defendant. He wasn’t aggressive in any way, shape or form, he was very deadpan.
“We explained that there were concerns for his safety, and we wanted to carry out a ‘safe and well check.’ He said he was fine, but we said we couldn’t leave without doing a check.”
Pc Jones said he had drawn his Taser ‘just in case things escalated,’ and was keen to holster it before going in, so as not to disturb McCallion, so did so before following him and Pc Meade into the living room.
“I recall Mr McCallion suddenly bending down very quickly and standing up and begin to turn to his right. He’s begun to turn, and I’ve become aware he’s holding the shotgun.
“As he turns, more of the shotgun comes into view, and the stock is level with his hip. The barrels were facing away, but they’re coming up. I thought it was game over.
“He continues to turn. As he gets half-way on that axis Pc Meade has got hold of the barrel and deflected it. He knocked the barrel away and took hold of it.
“I’ve moved forward. It’s too close to use any equipment, but I’ve got to get him under control. I’ve got him in a choke hold and pulled him to the floor.”
Told he was being arrested for attempted murder of the two officers, McCallion said he was ‘only cleaning it,’ but the jury heard the cleaning kit was still in the gun cabinet upstairs.
Richard Davenport, defending, suggested that McCallion had not had the shotgun in his hands at any stage, and that the officers had ‘just perceived’ that he had.
And McCallion maintained he had not picked the shotgun up, although he said he may have reached out and touched it , and had not turned and pointed it at anyone.
After the jury’s verdict, Judge Griffith-Jones remarked: “This trial has no bearing on his suitability for a shotgun licence, but I very much doubt if he would succeed in having a licence again, having been intoxicated with a loaded firearm.”
And he stressed: “That verdict I very much doubt reflects any adverse indication towards the evidence of the officers, who I want to say two things about.
“I think they gave their evidence with complete fairness. There was absolutely no hint of them seeing events in a blinkered way. I was very impressed with their professional objectivity.
“The second thing is that we expect members of the police force to do all sorts of things, and they do it on our behalf.
“Some things they are asked to do they must think they are putting their lives on the line.
“Here, two unarmed officers have to go to the scene of someone who may have been disturbed and was armed with a shotgun. They only had each-other, and as they stood either side of the door they must have wondered what would happen.
“Inside, they moved rapidly to ensure no-one, including the defendant, would be hurt. I think they are to be commended for their professionalism.
“They were very courageous and fast-moving. It is far better that people don’t take risk with lives than that evidence is gathered first.”