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Dramatic footage released of whisky drinking gunman in police shooting incident

UK News | Published:

Samuel Houlihan was described in court as “remarkably lucky” to suffer only a flesh wound when he was shot at close range.

Sam Houlihan court case

Dramatic video of police shooting a suspect who swigged whisky, crossed himself and raised his weapon at armed officers has been released after he was sentenced to an indefinite hospital order.

Samuel Houlihan, 25, was described in court as “remarkably lucky” to suffer only a flesh wound when he was shot at close range by an officer armed with a pistol.

Had a fellow officer next to him fired his carbine rifle instead, he was unlikely to have survived the shooting in Bishop Auckland, County Durham, in May, Durham Crown Court heard.

Houlihan, who has since been diagnosed as suffering from schizophrenia or episodic psychosis, was hit in the shoulder when the round deflected off the widow of the taxi in which he was sitting.

Sam Houlihan
Screengrab taken from police bodycam footage of Sam Houlihan in the taxi (Durham Police/PA)

He spat at officers as they tried to give him first aid immediately after he was shot.

Paul Gardner, the taxi driver who had to flee his minibus when it was surrounded by police was left traumatised by the incident, and died in a motorbike accident last Tuesday, the court heard.

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Houlihan was sentenced by Judge Christopher Prince after he admitted possessing a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence and possessing a firearm when prohibited.

On the morning he was shot, Houlihan had bought a Sig Sauer air pistol after lying to the shop assistant that he was not banned from owning a firearm, and was warned to keep it out of sight or he could be caught in a police firearms incident.

Paul Gardiner was driving the taxi
Taxi driver Paul Gardner, who managed to flee (Northumbria Police/PA)

Houlihan was seen by people in town centre shops and a local working men’s club to be carrying the weapon, although he made no threats to anyone.

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As Mr Gardner, 49, was driving him home armed police, who had been alerted by people in Bishop Auckland, surrounded the vehicle when it stopped at temporary traffic lights.

The terrified taxi driver complied with the commands to put his hands on his head but Houlihan refused, opened his bottle of whisky and picked up his air gun.

Samuel Houlihan's weapon
The weapon carried by Houlihan (Durham Police/PA)

Mr Gardner heard a click as Houlihan appeared to cock the gun – although he had not bought any ammunition – and the cabbie fled to safety.

Officers had seen the driver was petrified, the court heard, but his passenger remained calm despite the number of armed police pointing their weapons at him.

Richard Bennett, prosecuting, said: “He then picked up his whisky bottle and promptly drank three-quarters of it in front of the officers.

“The officers were concerned he was drinking in order to prepare himself for doing something serious or life-threatening.”

He was shot with a pistol round after he was seen to pull the cocking lever on his air gun and cross himself before appearing to raise the weapon towards the officers.

Mr Bennett said: “He was remarkably lucky, it was a flesh wound.”

Before the shooting Houlihan’s relationship had broken down and he had voluntarily admitted himself to a local hospital because he was mentally unstable.

But two days before the incident, he was released from the hospital despite a family member telling nurses he remained unwell.

The judge heard a victim statement from Mr Gardner saying he was left unable to pick up strangers in his cab, suffered from flashbacks, required medication for anxiety and was displaying signs of suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

There were also statements from armed officers, named C2 and C4, who expressed their disgust at being spat at when they tried to save his life.

C2, who fired the shot which hit Houlihan, said: “At the time I was genuinely in fear for my own safety and that of my colleagues.”

C4, who was beside him, said officers had not had time to don protective equipment and added: “I believed he was going to shoot at us, we didn’t have any time to take any form of cover.”

Judge Prince praised the police for their response, saying: “They did not shirk from their unenviable duty, to both risk taking and saving a man’s life.

“They were calm, they were composed, despite having to overcome that personal fear that a firearms officer would fear as much as anyone else.”

Houlihan appeared via a videolink to a secure hospital and was said by Rod Hunt, defending, to be a “model patient who wants to get well”.

The defendant has a previous conviction for dressing up as a PCSO and had sparked a previous armed response incident in his street when he brandished a BB gun.

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