A senior police chief has revealed how they dealt with a gunman during a three-hour armed stand-off at a South Tyneside bookmakers.
Alistair Gallow sparked a siege at Coral Bookmakers, in Grange Road, Jarrow, on January 8.
Videos and pictures from the scene went viral on social media as the incident unfolded with four hostages kept inside by Gallow, who was also armed with knives.
Officers fired a baton round to disable the 41-year-old as the stand-off came to an end.
Gallow, who had recently lost his job and split from his wife, was this week jailed for four years by a judge at Newcastle Crown Court.
Superintendent Sarah Pitt, of Northumbria Police’s Southern Area Command, told the Gazette how officers dealt with the incident and explained what risk assessments are carried out before deploying armed officers.
There is a significant risk whenever we use force and that force has to be balanced in terms of the situation that we haveSuperintendent Sarah Pitt
She said: “When an incident comes in, reporting somebody with a firearm, it’s quite quickly risk assessed by our force operations manager in terms of what resources that they need to send to that incident, to make sure the community and the public and the officers who are attending are kept safe.
“He made the decision to deploy firearms officers quite quickly to the scene as well as unarmed officers who were there to put up a cordon.
“This incident went on for a really long time and clearly there were members of the public still within the bookmakers.
“There was information that we had that the male was in there with a viable firearm, that could have obviously caused serious injuries to them and to officers as well.
“There was a lot of work going on by officers outside, trying to negotiate with the gentleman with the firearm.
“During these negotiations we were trying to establish who he was and what was happening and what was going on in his mind to try and resolve the situation as safely as possible for everybody there.
“We had a believed identification of the male who had the gun, so therefore we had lots of information that we assessed in terms of that male.
“We were gathering information from his family, in terms of his state of mind, because that is extremely important.
“All of that information is then assessed together to come up with a course of action.
“It is extremely important that we have all of the information to try and make a considered decision about what action to take, because our role is to preserve life; of the individual with the firearm as well as the people who are actually in the bookmakers’ themselves, the community and the officers we have sent to deal with that incident.
Supt Pitt said situations where an offender is keeping hostages inside premises are extremely rare.
“These incidents don’t happen on a daily basis and it is due to the experience of the firearms officers who attended on that day that we that we came up with a really successful resolution to the incident with nobody being hurt or injured,” she added.
“With situations like these we try to use the least lethal force possible and a baton round was the option that was considered to take and disable the male so that we could recover the firearm without anybody being seriously injured.
“There is a significant risk whenever we use force and that force has to be balanced in terms of the situation that we have.
“A baton round is a quite dense plastic bullet and clearly that will be able to disable somebody.
“We did have firearms officers with loaded firearms that could have been utilised if that tactic wasn’t successful and was a contingency that was in place, should it need to be used.”
Supt Pitt said she would like to thank the way the public behaved as the incident unfolded.
She added: The public in and around the Jarrow area were extremely helpful to us, by maintaining a distance from the area and assisting us where they could.
“I would like to say a big thank you from Northumbria Police for their patience while we dealt with this quite serious incident that was ongoing in that bookmakers at that time.”
A spokesman for the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said: “Northumbria Police made us aware of the incident that took place in Jarrow on January 8, 2017.
“The matter was not formally referred to the IPCC as there was no serious injury caused, no indication of potential conduct issues and no other complaints relating to this matter were received.”