Bow Street Mall 'gunman' Gregory Wallace to serve six months in prison
A Lisburn man who left shoppers in fear of their lives by walking around a busy shopping centre with a gun and a knife “in full public view,” was handed a two year sentence on Thursday.
Ordering 50-year-old Gregory Wallace to serve six months of that sentence in jail and the rest under supervised licence conditions, Judge Patrick Lynch KC said the “bizarre” incident at Bow Street Mall almost a year ago had “engendered genuine fear” in the public who were there.
Praising the police for the way they dealt with the potentially dangerous situation, the Craigavon Crown Court Judge commented that Wallace “is fortunate to have carried this out in this jurisdiction and not across the Atlantic because otherwise, we would not be here.”
“Unfortunately it’s a fear in contemporary society where, especially in another jurisdiction, gun attacks in people in public are all too common and that has led to fear and considerable death,” said the judge.
He told Wallace, who sat in the dock with his head bowed throughout the 40 minute hearing, that while he knew the handgun tucked into his waistband only fired ball bearings, neither the police nor witnesses at the scene knew that which “emphasises the considerable danger that the people around the defendant felt.”
At an earlier hearing Wallace, from Johnston Way in the city, entered guilty pleas to six of the nine offences against him relating to events at Bow Street Mall on 22 February last year including having a firearm, namely an airsoft pistol, without a certificate, having an airsoft pistol loaded with metal ball bearings under suspicious circumstances, possessing two knives in public, theft of £54 of groceries from Tesco and two counts of having loaded firearms in public, namely an airsoft rifle and a pistol, “without lawful authority or reasonable excuse.”
Opening the facts of the case, prosecuting counsel Ian Tannahill said security staff contacted police when they spotted Wallace walking around the centre with the pistol and knife tucked into the waist band of his combat trousers.
Sporting tattoos and a “Neo Nazi cross,” Wallace was asked to put a shirt on but he threatened the guard “I’ll get you done.”
Having gone into Costa coffee shop where another customer ended to paying for his drink, Wallace sat down at a table and began speaking to another customer at the table beside him, a man who Mr Tannahill said “played a sterling role” as the incident progressed.
Wallace told him “mate somethings gone wrong in 2020…and the defendant spoke about Covid, saying it wasn’t real,” said the lawyer adding that the gentleman discussed it all with Wallace “in a calm way,” keeping him engaged in conversation even when he realised Armed Response Officers and police dogs were waiting to swoop.
Mr Tannahill said while it was his duty to open the facts and not pass comment on them, “it’s impossible to go through the facts without mentioning the bravery that he displayed in the situation.”
“He was extremely frightened and concerned but he continued in his efforts to keep the defendant calm,” said the lawyer, describing that the situation was so calm that the police ARU and dog handlers actually walked by them.
When they turned back, Wallace was “taken to the ground in a struggle” and at one stage, “he had withdrawn the gun from his waistband and held it and that was forced from his hand.
As he was behind cuffed, Wallace shouted about “being a soldier and Covid-19 was his enemy….and he directly asked police to shoot him.”
The handgun knocked out of Wallace’s hand turned out to be an air pistol but because he had replaced the plastic ball bearings with metal ones, that had increased the velocity to over a joule which meant that it fell to be considered as a firearm.
Mr Tannahill said that as such, there was a minimum mandatory five year sentence unless the judge was satisfied there were exceptional circumstances.
Turning back to the scene, the lawyer said two further air soft weapons, a rifle and another handgun and a quantity stolen clothes and a bottle of southern comfort were uncovered in a rucksack Wallace had with him.
The court heard Wallace told the arresting officers “about being a soldier and Covid-19 was his enemy and he prepared to die” but during police interviews, he said he had taken a double dose of his medications along with alcohol and explained the “domestic stress” he was under.
A search of his home uncovered a further 20 air soft weapons, pellets and magazines and the court heard that Wallace had at one stage been a licensed air soft weapons dealer.
Mr Tannahill said while it was “obviously a frightening situation” for people in the shopping centre, “we accept that this is an unusual case and may not sit entirely easily with the normal approach in firearms cases.”
Defence counsel Joel Lindsay revealed that in addition to significant mental health issues which has been exacerbated during the pandemic, Wallace’s wife had suffered two strokes a couple of weeks before the incident which had left her brain damaged and effectively dying.
He highlighted that while it was a terrifying incident, “at no stage did he brandish any weapon or threaten anyone” and that Wallace had admitted his guilt as soon as he could.
Imposing the two year sentence, Judge Lynch said while Wallace was getting credit for pleading, he had little option but to give the overwhelming evidence in the case.
Departing from the usual 50/50 split between custody and licence, the judge he believed Wallace would benefit from an extra period of supervision and he also ordered the seized weapons to be destroyed.
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