James Carlo Wilson inquest: Policeman felt threatened by armed South Shields man

A police officer told a jury of the moment he felt threatened by an armed man.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 14th November 2018, 3:29 pm
Updated Wednesday, 14th November 2018, 3:39 pm
James Carlo Wilson, inset, died after he was shot in South Shields in 2016.
James Carlo Wilson, inset, died after he was shot in South Shields in 2016.

PC William Huntley was giving evidence at the inquest into the shooting of James Carlo Wilson.

Mr Wilson, 24, was fatally wounded by a police marksman as he stood outside a house in Frenchman's Way, in South Shields.

PC Huntley, a motor patrols officer, said he had offered to help earlier on in the "fast moving" incident after hearing about it on his police radio.

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"I was on patrol near Testo's roundabout," he said.

"I made my way in the general direction of Frenchman's Way in case I could offer any assistance.

"The plan at that point was to send a uniformed officer to drive down the street to gather more information. "My car was unmarked, so I thought it would be better if I did it, so I volunteered."

PC Huntley said he drove slowly along Frenchman's Way, adding: "I could see a male I now know to be Mr Wilson standing on the north side of the street

"He had something black in his hand. He looked at me and I formed the impression he recognised me as a police officer - I had a hi-viz jacket on, maybe I should have taken it off.

"When the male saw me he went to tuck the black object into the waistband of his tracksuit bottoms, as if he was concealing it."

PC Huntley said he relayed the information to his superiors before parking about 80metres down the street to keep observation.

"The male was pacing to and fro," said the officer. "At one point he walked towards me.

"By this time I had heard he had made threats to shoot officers.

"I had some cover for my bottom half from the police car and parked cars, but none for my top half.

"I was concerned for my safety, but also concerned that if I pulled away we would have no idea what the male was doing."

The inquest heard an armed response vehicle arrived within minutes.

Officers could be heard on radio recordings identifying themselves and telling Mr Wilson to put his gun down seven times.

Mr Wilson did not comply, but he repeated the requests back to the officers.

A baton round was fired at Mr Wilson hitting him in the chest. But it did not make him drop the weapon as the officers hoped.

A second officer fired a rife round five seconds later and Mr Wilson died from that bullet wound three days later on April 1, 2016.

Firearms officer PC Thomas Brown, who helped Chief Inspector David Guthrie co-ordinate the police response from force headquarters at Ponteland, told the hearing other forms of restraint available to police were not suitable in this case.

"We would never send an unarmed officer to confront an armed man," said PC Brown.

"The Taser stun device has a range of about seven metres, which is not far enough away to deploy safely in these circumstances.

"Mr Wilson was outside, and he could see anyone who approached him from in front or behind.

"The baton gun has an effective range of 20 to 30 metres, I've known them to be effective.

"We had been told Mr Wilson had a 9mm hand gun, such a weapon can be lethal from a long range and could pierce a wall, certainly of a newer building.

"Given the level of threat, the response by Chf Insp Guthrie was appropriate and proportionate."

Mr Wilson's gun was later found to be an air pistol, described by John Beggs, for Northumbria Police, as a "convincing" replica of a handgun.

The inquest heard the gun was recovered from the ground near to where Mr Wilson was shot.

It was not cocked and the barrel was clear. A ballistics expert who examined it found in was a Walther LP53 break barrel air pistol.

Test firing showed it was "under performing" due to a worn o-ring, and a pellet from it would be unlikely to penetrate the skin.

The expert commented it "resembled a genuine firearm".

The inquest is proceeding and resumes next week.