OFFICERS who put themselves in harm’s way to resuscitate a woman as a gunman took potshots at them during a two-hour siege in Lower Stratton have won top police awards.

Gun fanatic Scott Symonds, who was later jailed for almost five years, turned violent after arguing with his mum when she told him to turn down his music.

Insp Mark Freeman, the firearms commander who directed teams on the ground from the control room, said officers had no idea he was using a replica gun. “We had to assume it was a real firearm. 

“There was a lot of fear from the officers involved, I think it’s fair to say, because ‘what’s he shooting at us with? Is this going to hurt us?’.

“All of that was going on and there’s a big threat to officers and members of the public. When we get to the point the issue is resolved and the threat’s eliminated that’s always a huge sigh of relief for me and others in my position who’ve got command of that incident.”

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Insp Mark Freeman Picture: WILTSHIRE POLICE

He was one of a dozen officers to be recognised at the force’s awards ceremony. 

The inspector, who joined the police 24 years ago after five years in the army, said: “There was some really heroic work and some really good work that went on. That wasn’t down to me, it was down to the teams that were in the control room and on the ground. 

“When you get anything like that, you have got members of the public phoning in, you’ve got updates coming from the officers on the radios, I don’t think we had it on this occasion but you can have feeds from a drone coming in and you will have phone calls going absolutely mad. You’re sat there in the middle of it and you’ve got people shouting stuff across the room at you, you’re trying to listen to the radio and it’s an information overload.”

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Scott Symonds' custody shot Picture: WILTSHIRE POLICE

Police were called to Symonds’ parents’ house in Darling Close in August 2019. 

An argument over the volume he was playing music at spilled into violence aimed first at his parents’ belongings – then at police officers. The first two officers to arrive at the house were told by Symonds’ mum: “You’re going to need more of you than this.” 

They heard the sound of a gun being cocked and found themselves looking down the barrel of a rifle. They fled as Symonds smashed a window. His mum suffered a heart attack and officers had to perform CPR while ducking out of Symonds’ line of fire.

Symonds, who had a collection of firearms including a decommissioned Uzi and an imitation AK-47, was initially full of bravado, even boasting in a call to his cousin that he was engaged in a shoot-out with police.  He later urged police to kill him. That they didn’t was a result of the officers’ professionalism, lawyers at Symonds’ sentencing hearing in 2019 would recognise.

Two officers were awarded formal commendations by Judge Jason Taylor QC in November 2019, when Symonds was jailed for four years and nine months. Former Royal Marine Sgt Nathan Perry’s training meant he quickly realised Symonds was not firing live rounds. Armed officer PC Peter Smith was the one who calmly talked down the gunman.

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Part of the collection of firearms collected by Scott Symonds Picture: CPS

Judge Taylor said: “Were it not for the presence of mind and calmness under pressure of Sgt Perry and PC Smith who built this rapport, this whole incident could easily have resulted in your death.”

He added of Sgt Perry: “His quick wits stopped this becoming a potentially fatal call-out.
“He was also terrified. However, his experience enabled him to work out from the sound and absence of ricochet the pistol had discharged a blank.”

Sgt Perry himself told the court: “Whilst I have experienced live rounds being fired in my direction before, it is not a sensation I would want anyone to go through. The fear I felt as I realised the male was attempting to kill me was huge.”

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Police at the scene in the wake of the shooting Picture: DAVE COX

In its commendation, Wiltshire Police this week said the officers acted with exemplary professionalism during a very upsetting incident. “All of the police officers and staff involved in the incident that night, which led to the safe arrest of the suspect without injury to anybody, showed outstanding professionalism in very difficult circumstances,” the commendation read.

“Their actions are the embodiment of the Wiltshire Police values and they are all a credit to their colleagues, the force and the communities they serve.”

Sgt Perry received a Chief Constable’s Certificate of Excellence, PC Charlotte Richards received a commendation. Insp Mark Freeman, Insp Barry Reed, Kimberly Richards and Timothy Barnwell of the control room were given an Outstanding Teamwork Award. Armed officers Sgt Robbie Kilgour, PC Peter Smith, PC Tim Chandler, PC James Swayne and PC Chloe Stokes received an Outstanding Teamwork Award.