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Officers cleared over attempted 'suicide by cop' incident
19 May 2017

Police officers “acted reasonably” when they shot a man who pointed an imitation firearm at them, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has concluded.

Armed officers were dispatched to a property in Great Dunmow after Stephen Debley rang Essex Police, saying he had two guns and would “shoot any copper”.

He also told passers-by to call the Sun newspaper as he was going to have “a shoot-out with the old bill”.

Debley pointed a replica Colt 45 airgun at the officers, and when he refused to lower his weapon, he was shot with a plastic bullet, a firearm and a Taser.

He sustained a gunshot wound to his right thigh, a fractured cheekbone, and swelling and bruising to his left wrist.

The firearms officer who shot the man said he saw a gun with a long thick barrel in Debley’s right hand move towards him, so he fired his weapon once.

After looking at the circumstances surrounding the shooting, the IPCC concluded the officers acted reasonably, and no conduct issues were identified.

However, two recommendations were made to Essex Police over its post incident procedure training and the efficiency of passing information from officers to the control room.

The IPCC said the officer’s personal accounts did not comply with the current authorised professional practice when providing their individual initial accounts.

It recommended that the force includes stage one, two, three and four accounts into its firearms training package.

IPCC Commissioner Mary Cunneen said: “This was a fast-moving incident in which officers had to make split-second decisions. Mr Debley had made threats to kill and later pointed a gun at officers in a residential area.

“Evidence provided to the investigation supported the belief of firearms officers that they had to take action to prevent Mr Debley from causing serious injury or death to themselves or others.

“This investigation looked at this incident in full, and concluded the force should ensure its post incident procedure training accurately reflects national guidance.

“We also recommended Essex Police consider how information obtained by officers is passed to the force control room and officers at the scene of the incident, to ensure all relevant information is provided in the quickest and most appropriate form.”

An Essex Police spokesperson said: “Our officers train incredibly hard for this type of incident and all of our firearms officers are skilled and confident in dealing with these situations.

“The case was referred to the IPCC, which is standard procedure with incidents of this nature, and Essex Police has accepted its recommendations.”

Debley was sentenced to six years in prison in February 2016 after pleading guilty to offences of possessing firearms with intent, affray and making threats to kill.

Chelmsford Crown Court heard he was attempting to end his life in a “death by cop” incident.


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