Police lawfully killed crossbow man


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The Independent Online

A man who fired crossbow bolts at police was lawfully killed by a firearms officer who shot him, an inquest jury found today.

Depressed Keith Richards, 47, was hit by a round from a sniper rifle after he angrily remonstrated with officers from the bedroom window of his rented home in Cheapside, Shildon, County Durham, in May 2009.

The drunk father-of-two had indiscriminately fired crossbow bolts and called for police to shoot him, an inquest at Newton Aycliffe heard.

Almost three weeks after the hearing began, the jury returned a verdict of lawful killing.

The jury foreman said in court that it was likely Mr Richards had intended to be shot by armed police, had said as much in a series of 999 calls and was standing at his bedroom window in a "threatening manner" with the crossbow.

Mr Richards, who lived apart from his wife, had handed back their home to the bank before it was repossessed.

He was distressed at recently being arrested for drink-driving and had lost his window-fitting business after his tools were stolen.

After the verdict, Coroner Andrew Tweddle said he would consider making Rule 43 recommendations for changes to police policy - which can be made after inquests to save lives in the future.

Among his concerns about how Durham Police dealt with the situation was a lack of training over crossbow incidents.

Mr Tweddle also raised a question mark over a delay in officers entering the house after Mr Richards was shot, which coincided with a change of silver commander.

Afterwards Mr Richards' brother, Stephen, a retired detective inspector with neighbouring Cleveland Police, said: "We accept the verdict of the jury but we feel quite strongly it still should have been possible for the police to contain the situation longer, to allow for the arrival of specialist, trained negotiators, which we heard were arriving at the scene at the time that shots were fired.

"It was of great interest to us to hear the remarks the coroner made in respect to Rule 43 recommendations."

Durham chief constable Jon Stoddart paid tribute to the firearms officers on duty that night, who were referred to in court only as C, D and E, saying: "They have been extremely professional throughout.

"I saw them four hours after the fatal shooting and from then until now they have been a great example.

"They are good guys, they have been under a lot of pressure and they have conducted themselves very well."

Mr Stoddart expressed his condolences to the Richards family, adding that the dead man's behaviour that night was out of character.

Responding to the family's concerns about the negotiators not being able to speak to Mr Richards, the chief said: "The fact of the matter is the threat from Mr Richards was severe and the police officers had a duty to protect the life of the community around them."

Mr Stoddart added: "It is the first time we have had the occasion to fire fatal shots in 170 years and it is only the second time we have discharged firearms at a member of the public. It is a very rare occurrence."