A mentally disturbed man who brought Hucknall town centre to a standstill has been jailed for five years.
Reece Theison (20), of no fixed address, holed himself up at the Spot-On snooker and leisure club on Vine Terrace, off High Street, during an armed siege with police.
Nottingham Crown Court was told that Theison, carrying what looked like a real gun, kept police officers at bay for more than ten hours on Thursday 13th March.
He wanted the officers to shoot him. But unbeknown to him, two terrified members of staff, club manager Pat Lancaster and Kerry Moran, were trapped in another part of the building during the siege.
“They were left cowering in the corner of a small office for six-and-half hours, waiting, hoping and praying that the police would come,” said His Honour Judge Stuart Rafferty.
The court heard that the siege unfolded from 11am when Theison went to the Spot-On club and sat by himself without ordering a drink, which raised suspicion.
“When Miss Moran went out for lunch, information was passed to her which gave concerns that Theison was a potential risk to members of staff and customers,” said John Fountain (prosecuting).
“After she got back to the club, Mrs Lancaster decided to call the police and ask for Theison to be removed.”
At 2.20pm, PC Lee Collopy and two colleagues arrived at the club to find Theison sat at the bar.
“When PC Collopy approached, Theison reached into his jacket and pulled out what was believed to be a sawn-off shotgun.
“From four or five feet away, he pointed it directly at the officer, while Miss Moran was nearby, without offering a word of threat. PC Collopy told his colleagues to run, seek cover and get out.”
Eventually, all three officers fled, while Miss Moran ran to the small office near the fire exit to hide, along with Mrs Lancaster, who was already there.
As firearms officers converged on the club, Hucknall town-centre went into lockdown.
Streets were blocked off, shops were forced to close early and residents were refused access to their homes.
Meanwhile it had been established that Theison was “emotionally and mentally disturbed” and was “attempting to engineer a situation whereby he would be shot”.
“He wanted suicide by cop,” said Mr Fountain. “The police’s policy was to contain him, negotiate with him and try to calm him down.
“As he sat drinking at the bar, they made contact with him at 5.15 m, when he asked for more cigarettes.
“But the tipping point came at 7.55 pm when the mobile phone of Mrs Lancaster and Miss Moran was almost flat. The decision was made to enter the club.”
At 8.45 pm, the court heard, officers armed with handguns and rifles capable of firing baton rounds, carrying ballistic shields and wearing body armour, stormed into the club.
They managed to release Mrs Lancaster and Miss Moran. Both were “extremely distressed”, and one had suffered an asthma attack.
“Theison was still drinking and still agitated,” said Mr Fountain. “He became more aggressive and started throwing glass bottles and pool balls at the bar.
“The officers had their binoculars trained on him from one end of the snooker hall. They thought he was armed with a pistol, and he kept raising his arm in an effort to provoke the officers into firing at him.”
The latest stand-off lasted four hours, with the police “showing great restraint”, until, finally, at 12.45 am, it was brought to a dramatic close, the court heard.
Theison advanced towards the officers with his hand in his tracksuit trousers, grasping what was thought to be the gun.
The police marksmen shot him in the torso with a baton round of rubber bullets, which forced him to drop his weapon.
As he was handcuffed, he complained to the officers: “Why didn’t you shoot me? I wanted to get hurt.”
Originally, Theison was charged with possessing a Dan Weston gun with intent to cause cause PC Collopy that violence would be used against him.
However, firearms experts later established that the weapon was in fact “a very realistic replica”, a gas-powered air pistol manufactured in the style of a Smith And Wesson revolver.
The court heard it had a barrel twice as long as most handguns and, when held, it could be mistaken for a Magnum 44 shotgun. It was loaded with pellets “capable of causing minor injury”.
Theison pleaded guilty to an amended charge of possessing the imitation weapon and also to charges of stealing food and alcohol from the Spot-On club and of damaging fixtures and fittings there.