Police shoot `quick-draw cowboy' dead

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A 44-year-old man who was shot and killed by armed police yesterday was a fast-draw champion whose hobbies included raising money for charity and dressing up as a cowboy.

Friends said yesterday that the death of Robert Dixon could have been a tragic mistake. They say he had been carrying at least one replica 19th century gun shortly before he was shot.

Police last night recovered a shotgun from Mr Dixon's home in Golcar, near Huddersfield, and said that five bullets were fired at him at about 4am when he answered his door after being challenged by armed officers. The police had been concerned about hisbehaviour since 12.39am when a report was received of a man firing shots into the air from a silver pistol.

When the police finally traced the disturbance to Mr Dixon and surrounded his home, he was asked by a four-man unit armed with Heckler and Koch MP5 carbines to come out.

"But, after shouting at the officers, he returned inside the house," said West Yorkshire Assistant Chief Constable Bill Hughes. "Moments later, Mr Dixon came back to the door, pointed a gun and fired one or two shots at the officers.

"They returned fire and Mr Dixon fell back into the house. Five shots were fired by the officers. No officers were injured." Mr Hughes said the force regretted the incident.

After recovering the shotgun from Mr Dixon's home, the force said it would be unable to say whether the gun fired at officers was real or a replica until today at the earliest.

Witnesses said police had been "patient and very cautious" and that Mr Dixon refused to put his gun down, shouting to a negotiator that he would "blow you away".

However, friends of Mr Dixon at the Golcar Entertainment Centre, where he had been drinking for most of the day, said he had taken a display case containing at least one replica Western-style gun into the club to show a fellow enthusiast. Mr Dixon had been London Quick Draw Champion four times, taking three titles in the 1980's and one in 1993, using a Winchester Trinity handgun.

Paul Johnson, manager of the centre, said: "He had been in here all day, but he could take his drink and left as sober as he arrived. During the day, a German relative of one of the customers mentioned that he was interested in replica guns, so Bob nipped home and brought his display case back.

"He didn't take any guns out of the case because he knew I wouldn't have allowed it, but he showed this chap and they talked about it. He was quick-draw champion and was very proud of his title. I can't say for sure that it wasn't one of the replicas Bobpointed at police, but I would guess we have a tragic accident here."

Another friend, Eddie Everill, said: "Bob was a smashing bloke. He was captain of the darts and pool teams, and was always raising money for charity. There's a cheque for £400 in the club that Bob raised from holding a show. Everyone here's absolutely stunned."

Mr Dixon's wife, Maureen, 55, who is disabled, was in the house at the time of the shooting. She was receiving counselling yesterday.

Chief Superintendent Geoff Ogden, of Humberside police, has been appointed to investigate the incident on behalf of the Police Complaints Authority. It is the third such shooting in West Yorkshire in three years, two of which resulted in death.

Graham Riddick, Conservative MP for Colne Valley, said he regretted the incidents, but added: "If the police believe they are coming under fire, I believe they are perfectly entitled to fire back in self defence and people who do such things are taking aterrible risk."

On Boxing Day, a 30-year-old man was seriously wounded by armed police in Enfield, north London, after brandishing a gun during an apparent attempt to take his daughter away from his estranged partner.

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