Masked robber dies when restrained.

English: S10 Gas Mask Respirator Avon

English: S10 Gas Mask Respirator Avon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Firstly, apologies for the delay in posts, it’s been a busy new year and I along with a lot of people succumbed to a bug which has been doing the rounds in the UK, but an article in the press yesterday reminded me that it was time to blog, so here it is.

An article in several of the papers recounted the story of a masked gunman who died after being pinned down and restrained by customers during an armed robbery at a bookies in Plymouth. The police when called the scene found him unconscious and called an ambulance but he was declared dead when paramedics arrived.

Some papers gleefully began to talk about criminal procedings against the customers who pinned the man down, so I decided that in the interests of the good guy in the street it was time to investigate.

The man was called Alan Levers, 50, he had a criminal record for offences including assault and burglary dating back to his first conviction at age 13. He was jailed for four years in 2010 (for all that seems to mean in the legal system now) after he pointed an imitation handgun at the head of a terrified assistant in a corner shop as he stole £600 from her till. Sources think he was only out of prison for a few days before this incident.

The papers talk about Levers being masked, the police say that he was wearing a gas mask, at much is currently being made of the fact that his gun was an imitation one.

OK so a man in gas mask appears in a shop with a gun and demands money, a couple of people decide to be heroes and pin him to the ground during the course of which he dies.

Does anyone feel sorry for him? Did I hear no?

First, it was “only” an imitation gun – imitation firearms pre-1860 are illegal, so if you walk into somewhere with your favourite fake Glock or Sig assume people are going to think it’s real and react – Levers was hoping they would react as if it was a real weapon and would be cowed into submission, he was wrong! Having a gun pointed at you is terrifying and the average person is not looking for signs that it’s a replica. As far as the people in the betting shop were concerned they were in a life or death situation. Levers gun could have been real, he could have started shooting!

Secondly, his mask was a gas mask, a stupid choice really, if anyone there has used one, they will know how hard it can be to breath in them, add in exertion and rapid respiration and gas masks can be dangerous. It also limits your field of vision. He may well have missed someone ot his side. When he was pinned to the ground, it is entirely likely that the mask intake would have been blocked, assuming it worked in the first place. There are also strap that fit around the face that in a scuffle could have slipped.

The have a go heroes were probably not trained security personnel or martial artists and would not have had a knowledge of fighting skills. A knee on a the neck cutting air, or worse still cutting the blood flow to the carotid artery, could kill in seconds. But when you are trying to hold someone down who you think might have tried to kill you, exactly where that foot or hand is will not be at the top of your personal agenda, all you want is to hear sirens and see some police officers.

Alison Seabeck, Labour MP for Plymouth Moor View, the area where the attempted robbery took place, said: ‘It’s very important that what happened is properly investigated, not least because the person who died also has family and, whatever the rights and wrongs, his family will want to know what happened as well.’

Let me help there: a stupid career criminal who was only out of prison for a similar offence, ran across a couple of folks who cared, they stopped him and restrained him, not with intent to harm, from what I can tell, but probably in the way a couple of scared people might try to stop someone they thought was trying to kill them.

Michael Wolkind, QC, who defended Tony Martin, the farmer jailed for shooting dead a teenage burglar at his Norfolk home in 1999, said the two men in the betting shop acted within the law in restraining Levers. ‘The robber chose to come in wearing some sort of breathing apparatus, he chose to have a gun so people would be in fear, so it would be unreasonable to suggest the people who restrained him should stop and check he is all right in an evolving situation such as this.’ contains best details and some of which appear here.

The case has been referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission, for the sake of every hero out there who will stand up to the thugs and the robbers, I hope there is no further action.

Watch this space!

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