Plymouth 'gunman' avoids jail over armed standoff
A GRIEVING widower who sparked an armed police siege after his cat was run over has avoided jail.
Gary Chapman had previously pleaded guilty to possessing an air rifle with intent to cause fear of violence following a four-hour stand-off with police at his home in St Maurice Road, Plympton on the evening of September 25.
At his sentencing yesterday the court heard how Chapman, aged 49, had been found asleep on his sofa by his teenage daughter.
Prosecutor David Gittins said Chapman revealed he had taken a number of sleeping tablets and began to argue with his daughter when he tried to get more.
She called upon a family friend who in turn contacted the emergency services.
After they all refused to leave his home at his insistence he grabbed an air rifle and threatened them.
The court heard that when he was Tasered by police he pulled the barbs out and fired off a pellet.
Mr Gittins noted how his daughter was particularly worried for her father, revealing he had never gotten over the death of his wife 14 years previously. She believed his distress was compounded by the death of his cat which had been run over just days before.
In mitigation, Jason Beale said his client's wife died in 1998 when his daughter was very young.
He had never received bereavement counselling and the loss "had been at the forefront of his life ever since".
He claimed the loss of Chapman's cat was the catalyst to the incident and the three weeks he then spent in Exeter prison brought home to him the seriousness of his actions.
Mr Beale also noted how the local authority had threatened to evict him from his home as a result of the incident but had relented after the positive and vocal support of Chapman's own neighbours.
In sentencing Judge Cottle told Chapman: "You really came to terms with your wife's very untimely death."
He noted how Chapman had since sought psychiatric help, and passed a community order for 12 months with a supervision order for six months, with the aim of helping Chapman "move forward" with his life.
He also ordered the destruction of the air weapon.
Det Con Mike Milton, lead investigator, said: "We're thankful no-one was seriously hurt during the incident and we would like to remind the general public of the risks of taking weapons, air weapons and imitation weapons into public places.
"Firearms officers are trained to respond quickly and professionally to any perceived threats. That can include an air weapon or imitation gun.
"On this occasion it ended peacefully and with no injury."