Man shot by police after crossing chest and drawing gun in dramatic showdown

WARNING – DISTRESSING FOOTAGE: Samuel Houlihan, 24, was hauled from a taxi screaming and spitting at officers before they administered first aid

A “psychotic” gunman was shot by armed cops after pulling out his weapon as they surrounded him in a taxi.

Samuel Houlihan was given an indefinite hospital order today for the safety of the public.

Durham Crown Court was shown bodycam footage from an armed officer called to the scene shortly before Houlihan got out his weapon in the cab.

The 24-year-old had just been reported to police after dropping the black handgun inside Cockton Hill Working Men’s club in Bishop Auckland on May 25 last year.

Armed cops surrounded the vehicle at a nearby set of light shouting: “Put up your hands. Open the door slowly and put down your weapon.”

Houlihan threw a pair of white latex gloves and his phone out of the window.

He can be seen in the footage making the sign of the cross across his chest before lifting the weapon

As he pulled out the pistol with one cop warns: “He is readying it!” before his colleague fired from just 5ft away.

Two officers carefully approach to open the door of the vehicle where Houlihan, dressed in black top, tracksuit bottoms and trainers, is seen slumped on the passenger seat bleeding.

He is hauled free, screaming and spitting at officers as they administer first aid.

He admitted possession of a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence and possessing the weapon when he was prohibited from doing so due to a previous offence.

His Honour Judge Christopher Prince heard Houlihan suffered from pyschotic episodes, schizophrenia and an anti social behaviour disorder which meant he heard voices urging him to harm.

Houlihan had ‘miraculously’ suffered just a flesh wound to his arm as police used a less powerful handgun rather than a rifle to shoot him.

Taxi driver Paul Gardner, 49, who tragically lost his life in a motorbike accident last week, ran free moments before the shooting.

But he suffered post traumatic stress disorder, with nightmares about being slumped dead over the wheel after being shot, the court heard.

Two armed cops identified only as C2 and C4 were heard screaming at Houilhan to put down his weapon – an imitation firearm – before he drinks three quarters of a bottle of whisky, crosses himself and then raises it as is if to fire.

Richard Bennett, prosecuting said Houlihan had dropped the gun in Cockton Hill club just before the incident, and unmarked police cars carrying armed cops followed the taxi.

“CCTV recorded the defendant walk into the club overtly carrying the gun in his right hand,” he said.

“He then concealed the gun in his waistband before walking into the bar area. He asked for a whisky but was told that the club did not open until noon.

“The barman noted that the defendant appeared to be agitated and and under the influence of either drunk or on drugs.

He then dropped the hand gun on the floor.

“The barman was very shocked and he began to alert others. He was able to flag down a passing police officer and tell the officer what he had just seen.

“No threats had been made during the incident in the club.”

Houlihan realised the taxi was being followed by police and removed a pistol from his jacket pocket, “making no attempt to hide the gun held in his left hand”.

“Mr Gardner started panicking and began to flash his lights in an attempt to draw the attention of the police vehicle in front of him,” added Mr Bennett.

“At this point an unmarked police vehicle came alongside and Mr Gardner became aware of armed officers pointing guns towards the taxi shouting to get their hands on their heads.

“Mr Gardner complied.

The defendant opened the whisky bottle and took a drink before reaching down between his legs from where he picked the gun up. The armed officers were confronted by a situation they had been trained for but in reality would never wish to encounter.

“The passenger window was down by some four inches. The defendant was told in clear terms that he was surrounded by armed police.

“He picked up his whisky bottle and promptly drank three quarters of it in front of the officers. He was seen to have in front of him a black handgun. It looked like he was pulling a cocking-lever. The gun was being held in his right hand.

“The defendant then crossed himself with the sign of a crucifix.

He leaned forward and the handgun began to start to level towards the armed officers. At that point Officer C2 shot the defendant once towards his chest.”

Houlihan was taken to hospital with a flesh wound to his right arm.

His weapon was a Sig Sauer P226.177 air pistol which was very similar in appearance to the 9x19mm Sig Sauer Self-Loading Pistol.

His Honour Judge Prince commended the firearms officers for their bravery after racing to the scene without the usual protective clothing.

“They were calm and composed despite the fear that an armed officer would feel as would anyone else,” he said.

“I am sure people will be reassured to know such professional officers who respond quickly and calmly.”

Det Chief Supt Adrian Green said the sentence, which means Houlihand will be not released until he is no longer deemed to be a danger to the public, showed the seriousness of the case.

“It is still unclear what Houlihan’s intentions were, but his possession of a firearm in a public place was reckless and frightening to the public and police,” he said after the hearing.

“While incidents of this nature are rare, it demonstrates clearly the dangers of possessing firearms and replica firearms in public. It also shows Durham Constabulary’s ability and commitment to deal with these types of incidents and keep our communities safe.”

Houlihan, of Bishop Auckland, Co Durham, had a history of previous violent offences linked to his illness.

He appeared via video link from a secure unit where he will remain until he is no longer deemed a risk to the public.

Mr Gardner was pronounced dead by paramedics after the motorcycle he was riding veered off the road in Gateshead, Tyne and Wear on Tuesday, January 8.