Saturday, 19 September 2009

"Life is like a box of chocolates .44 Magnum..."

"..you never know what you're gonna get":
He shot Mr Tilbury while attempting to show civilian recruits how the chamber spins in a Magnum made famous by Clint Eastwood.

When he reached into a Quality Street tin Thames Valley's armourers used to keep assorted ammunition, he grabbed a live round.
Wha...?

They kept their bullets - mixed ammunition, at that - in a 'Quality Street' tin!?

Mind you, I do feel for Mr Mickelthwaite. Many's the time I've dipped a hand in a tin to fish for a delicious Toffy Penny, only to come up with that horrible red Strawberry Delight, or, even worse *shudder* the purple Brazil Nut...

But hold up. I need to check something. Am I reading 'The Daily Mash'?

Nope, it's the 'Mail'. And that's not even the best part:
Prosecutor Richard Matthews told Southwark Crown Court that Micklethwaite had failed part of a firearms instructor course organised by the Metropolitan Police.

But after considering the matter, Thames Valley Police put the failure down to a procedural difference between the two forces.

'It was felt that if he underwent a development plan, he would pass the course,' the prosecutor said.

But when the certificate was eventually issued, Micklethwaite had not taken any development course.
Now, this is just the prosecution on H&S grounds, not a damages hearing (and I'm not sure why they are even still sitting - isn't this enough?), but if Mr Tilbury has hired lawyers to sue for damages, then they've started whooping and jumping around the room high-fiving each other, before diving for the nearest computer to look up the current Ferrari model and how quickly they could get eight of them delivered.

Each...

In fact, it's safe to say that if this case were being heard in America, where juries tend to go in for punitive sums, Mr Tilbury would already own Thames Valley Police. All of them...
Mr Matthews said that when interviewed the constable was asked about the Met firearms training course and insisted he 'thought he had passed'.

He also told officers there were a 'million and one reasons' why he thought he was handling blank ammunition.
Really? I'd have thought only one was needed, actually.

The fact that he's about as well qualified to handle firearms as my cat...

It's a shame Mr Tilbury has never returned to work (though unsurprising) because he showed a hell of a lot more sense with regard to guns:
Mr Tilbury, a former electronic defence industry worker who had shot in the Berkshire County rifle team, later told investigators he saw Micklethwaite aiming the weapon at him.

He said: 'I was not happy, because it was drilled into us to never, ever point a gun at someone.'
I'm beginning to wonder if there's a rule for handling firearms that Micklethwaite hasn't broken...
In a statement read to the court, Micklethwaite, who had been a Thames Valley officer for 30 years, issued a 'heartfelt apology' to Mr Tilbury.

He said: 'My intentions on the day were to give the best possible presentation to the class.'
I think it's safe to say EPIC, MONUMENTAL FAIL! on that score, Mr Micklethwaite...

But Thames Valley are, despite it all, hanging their hat on the 'Not me, guv, I wasn't to know' defence:
Katerina McAteer, for Thames Valley police, denied the instructor had not been adequately trained.

She said while it was 'absolutely accepted' the force had been informed of the need for Micklethwaite to undergo a development programme and had not 'fully documented' what was required, 'this is not a case that the two competencies left hanging in the air weren't addressed'.

In fact the officer had undergone an 'extremely detailed period of training and assessment.

'As far as Thames Valley were concerned he was bona fide and safe and there was nothing to indicate otherwise. So it is not a case that he was let loose on members of the public.'
Katy, love, sweetie, darling, it's all over...he kept mixed ammunition in an old Quality Street tin.

And your force knew it. Let me repeat that for you - mixed ammunition in an old Quality Street tin!

Not even the relatively vastly safer option of an old two tier Black Magic box, where at least he could have seperated the live ammunition from the dummy ammunition with the trays...

The judge will pass sentence on Thursday. I imagine it'll take him that long to compose himself.

24 comments:

sobers said...

I've fired a .44 magnum at a gun range in the states. It has a kick like a mule. I had to hold it 2 handed and really brace myself to control it. God knows what the effect being shot by one at point blank range would be.

I have to agree with one of the commenters in the article - the people who volunteer in the police force for firearms duty are probably the very people who should never be allowed near firearms. There should be a psychological assessment of all potential gun handlers. The last thing you want is people who 'like' guns. You need people who are 'afraid' of them. The sort of person who never puts a 'blank' into the gun without checking what it is first.

Edwin Greenwood said...

There's scope for one of those quirky websites here: 1001 unusual uses for an old Quality Street tin.

JuliaM said...

"'ve fired a .44 magnum at a gun range in the states. It has a kick like a mule. I had to hold it 2 handed and really brace myself to control it."

I've only fired one on computer, and I had to turn down the speakers... ;)

The odd thing about the story is the statement from Mr Tilbury: 'I was getting up to move from my chair to move when I heard two clicks and then a loud bang.'

The two clicks aren't explained in this or any other report.

If this is indeed an accurate recollection (and I don't blame him if not!), are they the sound of Micklethwaite thumbing back the hammer, or did the idiot pull the trigger three times?

Pavlov's Cat said...

Considering that it is a criminal offence for a private citizen to even possess live ammuniton without a firearms certificate (whether you have a gun or not)

It does beggar belief that they have so much knocking about they put it in a chocolate tin for demo purposes.

Armed Police on patrol and even Soldiers on training or guard duty have to account for every every round issued and returned and there is quite a hoo-ha if any goes 'missing'.

How nobody has been sacked over this is beyond me.

JuliaM said...

"There's scope for one of those quirky websites here: 1001 unusual uses for an old Quality Street tin."

Heh!

"How nobody has been sacked over this is beyond me."

I'd assume because they are waiting for the outcome of this trial, to avoid prejudicing any dismissal.

I'd hope so, anyway...

Pavlov's Cat said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pavlov's Cat said...

heard two clicks and then a loud bang.'

Two clicks are the classic sound of a double action revolver, One is the hammer being cocked, the other is the release. You don't have to thumb the hammer back to cock it.

JuliaM said...

Ah, good to know, cheers!

David Gillies said...

As someone who has an intimate and long-standing acquaintance with firearms and firearms safety discipline, I can only say that the idea of having a tin full of mixed ammunition on a live firing range is so thoroughly alien as to present a glimpse into an alternate universe. There are so many things wrong with this story that it has me rubbing my eyes in disbelief. I don't doubt that these things happened, merely that they could have happened. That a firearm should not be pointed at me is so ingrained in my consciousness that I almost got in a fist fight when someone pointed aimed a water pistol at me in a pub. It looked square and black and pistol-like and my immediate reaction was to hit the deck. I was not amused. If I'm going to get killed by gunfire, I'd appreciate it if it were at least deliberate.

At any halfway-serious gun club or military range I have been on, it is no exaggeration to say that ammunition discipline is carried out with roughly the same attention to detail as in the viewing room of an Antwerp diamond merchant. You enter with thirty rounds, you shoot eleven, you walk out with 19 and eleven cases or questions will be asked. You do not, ever, EVER, allow a gun in your possession to move from the ±45° arc immediately to your front while it is not in a demonstrably unloaded condition. You do not accept a firearm from someone else without immediately checking it is in an unloaded (or at the least, safe) condition. Any weapon upon which your gaze has not been continuous is assumed to be loaded, in full battery, and unsafe. Pointing a weapon at an individual might well draw counterfire (after nearly getting gut-shot under much the same scenario as this debacle, a buddy of mine solemnly informed new recruits that if they turned to face him with the weapon in their hand, he would kill them. He had a Taurus PT92 in Condition One in a shoulder holster to back this up. I have seen him go to Condition Zero and put a double tap centre mass in a 20m target in under 0.8s).

And a .44! Jesus! There is not a single part of the human body that can be shot with a .44 Magnum round and not suffer permanent, life-altering trauma. A grazing wound on the skull can cause brain damage. In the body-T (across the eyes, down to the sternum) a hit is immediately and spectacularly fatal. A wound anywhere in the torso, unless in an operating theatre, prepped for surgery, with a trained surgical team that knows from gunshot wounds, will generally mean death. You can shoot someone in the leg with a .44 Magnum and they might not die (their recuperation will be long and arduous, but they might not die.) You can take a limb with a .44 (either promptly or from vascular damage.)

The victim cheated death by a whisker. He hasn't been back to work? No surprise. The muzzle blast from a .44 can be debilitating at close range, never mind the round itself. Pieces fly off you if you are hit.

An agent of the State ruined this man's life through negligence. The victim should be extravagantly compensated, and the officer involved prosecuted to the full extent of the law, his career ended, his liberty curtailed, his future sternly circumscribed.

And I'll second sobers: a buddy of mine is ex-California sheriffs' department. He said the best way to recruit a SWAT team was to post a notice on the bulletin board asking for volunteers and make sure that anyone who signed up was never again allowed to wield anything more lethal than a stapler.

JuliaM said...

"There are so many things wrong with this story that it has me rubbing my eyes in disbelief. "

Yup, that's what I thought when I was reading it last night. It's like there's a big book of 'Do's and Don'ts of Firearms Handling' and this clown went down the list, crossing out all the 'Do's' and ticking all the 'Don'ts'...

"The victim cheated death by a whisker. He hasn't been back to work? No surprise."

When the incident was first reported, and they said a 'handgun', I expected it to be a normal calibre. Something they often carry.

When they said the next day it was a .44 Magnum and he was 'gravely ill', I thought it was merely PR-speak for 'We haven't got around to switching the life support off just yet'.

He really won the Lottery there, poor man. He ought to be set up for life - in the States, he would be.

JuliaM said...

"An agent of the State ruined this man's life through negligence. The victim should be extravagantly compensated, and the officer involved prosecuted to the full extent of the law, his career ended, his liberty curtailed, his future sternly circumscribed."

I'd hope they would be. And whoever oversaw him too.

But then I think back on Jean Charles De Menezes, and I remember how none of the chiefs got punished for the panic in the control room, and one - the useless woman 'in charge' was even promoted...

And the daft thing is, this will just feed the usual anti-police crowd who whine when a criminal posing an actual threat gets shot, usually by claiming the police should have 'shot to wound' or even, in one instance 'shot the gun out of his hand'..!

It's bad news all around.

David Gillies said...

Yep, the cops aren't exactly covering themselves in glory in this particular instance. Sometimes, you just gotta shoot someone (like the lawyer that went bonkers with a shotgun - I'm surprised at how long it took for an ops guy to drop the hammer.)

I'm not a major fan of the polis as it is (UK, anyway, round my gaff, they're diamonds). I mean, I'm happy that I get my bins emptied Monday and Thursday, but it's not like I put my bin-men on a pedestal. If they accidentally run over my neighbour's kid while trying to complete their round on time, I'm not going to say, "well, they do a dirty job under difficult circumstances, so when they crushed Miguelito's head it was an accident. These things happen." And as far as I know, my bin-men don't have a pick'n'mix assortment of ammo and a hand cannon and the common sense of Benny from Crossroads with a cap-gun. So when the fuzz, who amongst British civilians are uniquely allowed to wave a roscoe around, negligently perforate some poor bastard, I don't give them a free pass on account of how dreadfully trying it must be to keep the peace.

JuliaM said...

"So when the fuzz, who amongst British civilians are uniquely allowed to wave a roscoe around, negligently perforate some poor bastard, I don't give them a free pass on account of how dreadfully trying it must be to keep the peace."

No, indeed. Particularly when, in this instance, it wasn't exactly 'heat of the moment, spilit-second decision time'.

Which is why the panic and obfuscation, lies and PR-blitz over De Menezes has, I fear, irreprably damaged the police armed response as a result.

I don't blame the guys that pulled the trigger - I think they had real cause to believe he was a bomber, or at least, no cause to suspect he wasn't as described by the spotters. And running onto a Tube you think might blow up can't be easy...

But the lies afterwards, and the dissembling and responsibiliy-waiving of the senior met in charge?

That they should have swung for.

Chalcedon said...

Blank ammo looks quite different from a live round. The presence of a bullet in a live round tends to be a bit of a giveaway.

Dr Melvin T Gray said...

So the dum dum wasn't fired then?

Angry Exile said...

Chalcedon, not that you should fuck around with blank rounds either. I've personally seen a blank .303 round blow a hole in a sandbag as part of a safety demo when I was a cadet. And then there's this incident, which incidentally also involved a .44 Magnum. That was something that bothered me hugely about this story - if the copper thought he'd loaded a blank what the fuck did he think he was playing waving the thing around and pulling the trigger? Can he possibly have been daft enough not to realise that blanks are dangerous too and never told that they have caused deaths? Or has the Daily Fail got the reporting wrong and we're actually talking about some form of drill round rather than blanks? I suspect the second, but that still leaves some what the fucks. What the fuck was a live round doing among (presumably) inert rounds? What the fuck were they doing keeping any of it in a fucking choccie tin? And since they're generally different by look and/or feel how come PC Mickelthwaite failed to spot that he hadn't picked up a dud as he'd wanted? And finally - again - what the fuck did the clown think he was doing waving the gun around? As has been said already you should never ever point a gun anywhere other than a safe direction unless you're actually likely to shoot something - it's a cardinal fucking rule even if it's unloaded and even if you're certain in your own mind that it's in a safe state. This uninformed uniform has demonstrated one reason why.

On a side issue I note that the Daily Fail isn't saying that the victim was blown across the room any more. They hired someone with a physics O level recently?

David Gillies said...

AngryExile: I've seen a blank .303 turn a can of compo ration baked beans into a special effects shot from a Hammer Films movie. We were advancing during a fire-and-manoeuvre drill one time when I saw my oppo stumble and stick his muzzle in the mud. He had a plug of dirt up the spout which could have been bad news out to several metres. He cleared it into neutral ground on my command, but someone could have been hurt had I not been on the ball. There is nothing cool about losing an eye.

JuliaM said...

"And then there's this incident..."

Oh, indeed! I remember that. I used to watch the show.

And of course, there's Brandon Lee.

"And since they're generally different by look and/or feel how come PC Mickelthwaite failed to spot that he hadn't picked up a dud as he'd wanted?"

I think the bullets he wanted weren't the only 'dud' in the classroom...

Anonymous said...

It really is unbelievable the vast number of stupid things this "trained" induhvidual was able to do wrong! Frankly there are too many Police Officers who are unfit to be allowed out with a water pistol. The fact that he FAILED the course should have been enough to have him kept well away from firearms and the excuse given by Thames Valley Police is simply beyond parody. As for keeping rounds in tupperware and sweet tins which implies that the rounds are kept loose is simply unbelieveable. Who is in charge of the firearms team and training? Blind Pugh?
TTFN MJN.

Mac the Knife said...

"The fact that he's about as well qualified to handle firearms as my cat..."

Before I even considered issuing sidearms to my cats I put them through an intensive course...

Mac the Knife said...

Hah! The anti-spam was 'virago', what price artificial intelligence eh?

The Filthy Engineer said...

When he loaded the offending round into the weapon, did he not notice the lump of lead at the pointy end? FFS.

JuliaM said...

"It really is unbelievable the vast number of stupid things this "trained" induhvidual was able to do wrong!"

'Induhvidual'. I like it! ;)

"Hah! The anti-spam was 'virago', what price artificial intelligence eh?"

Heh! That thing's getting smarter. Hope Skynet isn't involved...

"When he loaded the offending round into the weapon, did he not notice the lump of lead at the pointy end? "

I guess we should be thankful (or not?) that he inserted it the right way round!

Anonymous said...

"When he loaded the offending round into the weapon, did he not notice the lump of lead at the pointy end?"

It was presumably meant to be a training round, which would also probably have 'a lump of lead at the pointy end'; however, it should also have had clear indications that it _was_ a training round and not live.

But all of that would have been irrelevant if the man hadn't broken rule number one of firearms handling: you never, ever point a gun at anyone or anything you're not willing to destroy. Particularly when you 'know' it's safe, because that's when you're most likely to get overconfident and shoot something by accident.

As someone said above, there are so many things wrong with this whole incident... it would be a comedy if someone hadn't been seriously injured; when I used to shoot in the UK anyone who behaved the way this man did would have instantly been thrown out of the gun club, yet the people who used to shoot at that club are now not allowed to own guns whereas this clown is allowed to carry live ammunition around in a sweet tin and break every safety rule in the business.

I guess this just goes to show that police gun-handling has sunk to third-world levels along with most of the rest of the UK.