A teenager who sparked a major firearms incident in Shetland this September has pled guilty to four charges of assault and one of abusive and threatening behaviour.
Lerwick Sheriff Court heard on Wednesday that Samuel Barlow was lucky to have not been shot by firearms officers as they closed in on him at Lerwick’s Westerloch Drive on 23 September.
At the height of the incident, specially trained officers from Inverness were flown to Shetland to provide back up for the two authorised firearms officers based in the isles.
Sentence on the 16 year old was deferred until 7 January for psychological and psychiatric reports. An application for bail was refused.
Procurator fiscal Duncan Mackenzie recalled the day when the local community was urged to stay indoors while they were dealing with an “extremely serious” situation that lasted several hours and had a “major impact on the community.”
Barlow, described as an inmate of the Polmont young offenders institution, was first seen walking with a rifle near the Scord quarry, at the outskirts of Scalloway, just after midday.
Two police officers alerted by concerned islanders were unable to approach the 16 year old and had to take refuge behind the fire station building there when Barlow took aim at them.
After taking to the hills Barlow appeared at Lerwick’s Westerloch area later the same afternoon where he walked through several people’s gardens, threatened local people and aimed his rifle at police officers who were trying to negotiate a peaceful solution to the stand off.
The fiscal said: “999 calls were now coming in thick and fast, and a major police incident was declared.
“It is difficult to convey the concern that there was.”
At this stage, police still didn’t know who they were dealing with and what type of weapon he was armed with.
Every police officer in the isles, on and off duty, was deployed to work on the case, and firearms officers from Inverness were flown to Shetland in support.
“I am not sure if the accused appreciates how close he became to being shot by police,” Mackenzie said.
There had been a number of occasions where they had to decide to pull the trigger or not, he added.
Unhappy with the police negotiators, Barlow then moved out of view again, and officers decided to “move beyond containment” and make “an aggressive approach towards him”.
Mackenzie said: “This was a very dangerous situation police officers were in.
“At the very end, only as the accused was restrained, it was confirmed he had only an air rifle.
“The accused owes the officers a debt of gratitude for their professionalism and indeed their courage. It was very close to a fatal outcome.”
Defence solicitor Tommy Allan said he would wait for the psychological report before addressing the court in mitigation.
His application for his client to be released on bail was refused.
Sheriff Philip Mann said he had no other option than to keep Barlow in custody and warned him that a custodial sentence was very much a possibility.