Robber 'was warned before shooting'
Published 12/11/2012 | 14:08
An off-duty police officer shouted a warning before opening fire on a criminal who had just robbed a petrol station, a Belfast inquest has heard.
He called out: "Drop the knife or I'll shoot", eyewitnesses told coroner John Leckey.
Marc Alexander Ringland, 29, died in hospital after he was hit in the chest at the east Belfast garage last February.
His family were shown CCTV footage of his death during his inquest at the Old Town Hall. The DVD recording showed Mr Ringland, who had a lengthy criminal record with 133 convictions including for robbery, flash a knife at a shop assistant before helping himself to handfuls of cash.
He was wearing a striped hooded top with the hood pulled up and had his face partially covered with a mask when he walked behind the counter of the BP filling station on Belfast's Albertbridge Road.
Three of Mr Ringland's relatives chose to stay in court to view the footage which was being shown to the jury of eight men and two women. They displayed no emotion as events were silently played out on the large television screen. A number of other relatives opted to wait outside the courtroom.
Mr Ringland, a father of one from Calvin Street in east Belfast, was shot as he made his way out of the premises by an off-duty police officer who had stopped to buy petrol on his way to a night shift. The policeman, known only as Officer A, had four years' service with the PSNI and was not prosecuted in connection with the shooting. The hearing was told he had completed firearms training in December 2010.
Jeff Smyth, acting director of investigations with the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman's Office, said inquiries had found that no official guidelines had been breached. Mr Smyth described the death as tragic but claimed Officer A's actions complied with the PSNI principles to protect human life and uphold the law. He said the policeman had been interviewed under criminal caution but there was no evidence to suggest any criminal aspect to the death. "It was a spontaneous reaction carried out in accordance with PSNI policies and procedures," he said.
Mr Ringland was confronted by Officer A as he tried to leave the premises. CCTV footage shows that Mr Ringland did not appear to slow his pace before the policeman discharged one round.
Witnesses recalled hearing a verbal warning before the officer opened fire. Shop owner Belinda Law said she could clearly make out the words "drop the knife or I'll shoot". Another witness, Kyle Thompson, said the warning was loud enough to startle everyone in the shop and left people in no doubt that the man with the gun was a member of the PSNI.