Drunken gunman 'nearly shot dead' by police in village confrontation

Armed police arrested a suspected gunman in Norfolk Street, Wisbech this afternoon (April 14).

Armed police were sent to Newton Poppleford in February - Credit: PA

A drunken gunman was nearly shot dead by a police marksman as he walked out of his home and aimed his firearm at officers.

Kevin Collins was carrying a gas-powered ball bearing gun at the property in Newton Poppleford, but it looked so much like a real pistol that police were unable to tell the difference.

He survived because PC Philip Powell, at whom he aimed, was carrying a weapon that fired baton rounds rather than bullets. 

The baton knocked him backwards into his doorway and police were able to overpower him.

A second officer from the armed response unit, who was carrying a carbine, was stood next to PC Powell and was about to fire when Collins was hit by the baton round.

An officer on patrol in the East Devon village called in the armed response unit because of reports of an armed man. 

Collins' brother had also dialled 999 to say Collins was carrying a BB gun and on his way to rob the post office.

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Collins was dependent on alcohol at the time and had been drinking vodka all night before going out with the gun a 9am on February 22 this year.

A judge at Exeter Crown Court told him he was lucky not to have been shot or killed by the armed officers.

The 39-year-old, of Badger Close, Newton Poppleford, admitted possession of an imitation firearm with intent to cause Pc Philip Powell fear of unlawful violence and was jailed for 11 months by Judge Timothy Rose.

He told him: "At least one of the police was armed with a weapon that carried potentially lethal ammunition. 

"Although you presented a danger, it was first and foremost to yourself, but if for any reason shooting had started there would, in principle, be a wider risk.

"You were extremely intoxicated and appear to have consumed in the region of a bottle of vodka. 

"You pointed a realistic looking gun directly at police, who responded by shooting you with a non-lethal baton round, rather than anything else.

"Afterwards, you asked what all the fuss was about and said you were only joking. It was very far from that and was a very serious incident."

Emily Pitts, prosecuting, said neighbours had already told a police officer of concerns about Collins when his brother rang 999 to alert them to a possible robbery at the post office, saying his brother wanted to go back to jail.

A firearms unit was called and were outside the house when Collins came out and aimed a very realistic looking weapon at PC Powell.

Miss Pitts said: "The officer was very shocked and taken aback and it is lucky perhaps that it was him that Collins aimed at and not a colleague who carried a carbine with lethal ammunition.

"He said he was only moments away from discharging a potentially lethal shot. The baton round knocked Collins backwards and police were able to disarm him."

Collins was barred from owning any type of firearm because he has a criminal record for 55 offences and has previously served prison sentences.

William Parkhill, defending, said Collins has started addressing his long-standing alcoholism in the past three months and now has agency work as a fork lift truck driver at a scrap yard.