Firearm officers thought Ashworth’s airgun was ‘real’

PUBLISHED: 11:24 13 March 2020 | UPDATED: 11:47 13 March 2020

The inquest into the death of Spencer Ashworth continued at Avon coroners court.

The inquest into the death of Spencer Ashworth continued at Avon coroners court.


A police officer who gunned down a man after he fired an air pistol at officers has said it ‘looked like a real gun to me’.

Spencer AshworthSpencer Ashworth

Spencer Ashworth was fatally wounded by firearms officers on the A369 Portbury Hundred on September 27, 2017.

Officers discharged 15 rounds at the Portishead man after he fired an air pistol at an officer.

Police stopped Southampton-born Ashworth in his Red Suzuki Swift after receiving reports of a motorist travelling on the M5 with a handgun, threatening another driver.

Giving evidence anonymously, the firearms officer - identified only as 'CT' - told Avon Coroners Court yesterday (March 10) he believed the gun was a self-loading pistol similar to the Glock 17s issued to officers.

Avon Coroners' Court.Avon Coroners' Court.

He said: 'It looked like a real gun to me.'

Officer CT described how, moments before officers opened fire, they shouted at the 29 year old to 'step out the vehicle and show them his hands' and that he knew something was wrong when the voice of the officer taking the lead 'changed tone'.

'At that exact moment, the driver drew a gun from the vehicle - he pointed it at an officer and fired it at him.

'I heard a bang. I was zeroed in on the gun and the discharge from it.'

'It was clear to me it was being fired at one of the officers.

'I moved sideways, unclipped my pistol and fired at the driver several times.

'I thought he was going to kill one of the officers under my command that day.'

He added: 'I fired as many times as I needed until the threat was gone.

'At the point he slumped out of my view was when I stopped firing.'

'It was at that point I said: 'shots fired, ambulance required'.'

CT said he found Mr Ashworth slumped in the car with a gunshot wound to his head.

The officers then pulled him from the car and took it in turns to perform CPR on the man for more than 15 minutes, before paramedics took over, but he was pronounced dead at the scene.

When asked by the jury why he had not deployed his Taser instead, CT said there was no guarantee it would work.

He said: 'If there's an immediate threat with a firearm, we need an appropriate response, and that is with lethal force.'

The inquest continues.

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