A judge has praised Durham Constabulary firearms officers for showing ‘commendable conduct and selfless courage’ when they shot a man who was brandishing a firearm during an incident in Bishop Auckland last year.
Sam Houlihan was carrying a replica weapon when he was shot by firearms officers on the morning of Friday, May 25 last year.
The 24-year-old, of Bishop Auckland, admitted possessing a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence and possessing a firearm when prohibited.
He appeared at Durham Crown Court today via videolink where he was sentenced to an indefinite hospital order under the Mental Health Act.
Houlihan had bought the Sig Sauer P226 air pistol on the morning of the incident after lying to the assistant that he was not banned from owning a firearm.
Later that morning he got a taxi to Cockton Hill working men’s club where he was caught on CCTV inside the building carrying the weapon.
He then made his way to a nearby convenience store where he bought a bottle of whisky before getting back in the taxi.
Armed police then surrounded the vehicle on Rochester Close after being alerted by members of the public who had seen him carrying a gun.
Houlihan ignored repeated requests from police to not raise the weapon and to comply with their orders. As a consequence, he was shot and sustained a wound to his arm.
The video shows Houlihan walking into Cockton Hill working men’s club, where he is caught on CCTV carrying the gun.
He then walks across the road, narrowly avoiding oncoming traffic, to a convenience store where he buys a bottle of whisky.
He then gets back into a taxi which is then stopped by armed police a short distance away. The video shows the police operation surrounding the van which ends with him taking a mouthful of whisky, making the sign of the cross and then raising the gun.
The officers immediately approached Houlihan and gave him first aid until paramedics arrived.
During today’s sentencing, Judge Christopher Prince said the officers involved should be commended for their conduct during the incident.
“They were very professional, they were calm and they were composed,” he said.
“I am reassured, and I am sure other people will be reassured to know that Durham Constabulary employ such professional officers who will readily respond to a production of a firearm or any other weapon quickly and calmly.”
Detective Chief Superintendent Adrian Green, from Durham Constabulary, said: “Today’s sentence reflects the seriousness of the incident involving Houlihan.
“It is still unclear what Houlihan’s intentions were, but his possession of a firearm in a public place was reckless and frightening to the public and attending police officers.
“While incidents of this nature are rare, it demonstrates clearly the dangers of possessing firearms and replica firearms in public. It also shows Durham Constabulary’s ability and commitment to deal with these types of incidents and keep our communities safe.”