St Albans man jailed for aiming gun at police officer

Stephen Lawrence

Stephen Lawrence - Credit: Archant

DRESSED in military clothing, a St Albans man crouched down on one knee and pointed a gun at a police officer, a court heard this week.

Stephen Lawrence, 43, was just 10ft away from Pc Ben Mann who had been called out after police had received 999 calls from members of the public reporting that a man was walking the streets with a gun.

The weapon turned out to be an air gun designed to look like an assault rifle but the incident resulted in Lawrence being jailed for three years when he appeared at St Albans Crown Court on Tuesday.

The court heard that unemployed Lawrence, of Cairns Close, St Albans, was well-known in both the city and London Colney for dressing up in military clothing.

Prosecutor Michael Speak told the court that at around 5pm on March 22 officers were called by a woman who saw Lawrence carrying what she thought was a rifle in White Horse Lane, London Colney.

Police searched the area but could not trace him. An hour later he was spotted by another member of the public, who knew him as Stephen, in London Colney High Street.

Lawrence was wearing a camouflage jacket with netting and red paratrooper-style beret with the air rifle under his arm.

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The police continued searching and half an hour later Lawrence was tracked down to Cairns Close.

Mr Speak said as Pc Mann got out of his car Lawrence brandished the rifle, put himself in a half crouch position and pointed it, from around 10ft away, at the officer’s chest.

Pc Mann saw he had his finger on the trigger but realised when he heard a popping sound that it was an air rifle.

Lawrence was disarmed and overpowered after PAVA incapacitant spray was aimed at his face. The weapon, which was unloaded, was found to be a long-barrelled Griffin air rifle which looks like an AR-15 assault rifle.

When questioned Lawrence said he had paid £70 for the rifle and was intending to shoot with it in the woods.

He maintained that he pointed the gun at the police officer because he was dazzled by the police car’s lights and thought he was being attacked by travellers.

Lawrence, who said he could not remember adopting the firing position and denied playing out any military fantasy, was on bail at the time for stealing a can of cider from Londis in London Colney and punching a worker from the shop.

Divorced father of two Lawrence, of Anderson House, Cairns Close, pleaded guilty to possessing an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence. He also admitted theft and common assault.

He had previous convictions relating to drinking, which included theft from shops and assaults on the police.

Andel Singh, defending, said Lawrence expressed his remorse to the officers and knew what he had done was “wholly unacceptable.” He added: “This case is a sad indictment of someone who had a good life before he became addicted to alcohol.”

Sentencing him to three years in jail, Judge Stephen Gullick said: “It is fortunate you were not confronted by firearms officers. They might have taken different actions. I take into account your apology to the officers who were doubtless very frightened. Initially they must have thought it was a proper firearm.”

He told him: “At some point you have got to get off alcohol.”