Keyham Inquest: 'I needed to protect the public' - Unarmed officer who confronted gunman

Police constable Zachary Printer was among the first of the emergency services on the scene. Credit: Elizabeth Cook

An unarmed police officer who ran towards the Plymouth gunman as he took his own life says his priority was to protect the public and his colleagues.

Jake Davison had already killed five people including his mother and a three-year-old girl when police constable Zachary Printer arrived at the scene in the Keyham on 12 August 2021.

PC Printer told the inquest into the tragedy he thinks he might have been able to "negotiate" with Jake Davison and "talk him down" if he had been able to get closer.

PC Printer was among the first of the emergency services on the scene after the gunman killed his victims and prepared to turn the gun on himself.

Giving evidence to the inquest, PC Printer paused several times due to emotion. He recollected the moment he found the fifth victim, Kate Shepherd, who was "severely injured".

Keyham victims Lee and Sophie Martyn (top right), Kate Shepherd (top left), Maxine Davison (bottom right) and Stephen Washington

"The medical kit we had was insufficient to deal with the injury", he told the inquest.

"We did our best with the equipment we had. We managed to get a defibrillator to Kate should she go into cardiac arrest."

Having shot Mrs Shepherd, Davison walked down nearby Bedford Street and re-appeared a few minutes later.

"There were sudden shouts, screams - 'he’s back, he’s back, he’s got a gun, he’s got a gun'", PC Printer said.

"I turned to my left, saw a figure and I shouted 'stand still'."

"I needed to protect the public. I need to protect my colleagues. But I also need to protect Jake, who had obviously gone through massive trauma because of what had happened that day.

"If I had got closer, I might have been able to negotiate, talk him down. I got to within 20 metres or so...and he pulled the trigger.

"I sprinted to Jake, but he had suffered catastrophic, non-survivable injuries, and the shotgun was laid at his feet.

PC Printer ran to killer Jake Davison to try and negotiate with him before he took his own life Credit: Jake Davison/PA

"I had no choice. I had to confront him to protect the public. I had to become the focus of attention in his eyes, so he couldn't look at anyone else."

The court also heard from a volunteer police officer who was among the first on the scene in Biddick Drive.

Special constable Daniel Carter was sent to the home of Jake Davison and his mother, Maxine.

SC Carter entered the house and found Maxine dead in a bedroom.

"There were multiple shotgun cartridges, some looked like they were still live, as if they had spilled out of the box," he said.

"I was in a state of shock", he added.

SC Carter said this was the first time he had ever been involved in an incident of such severity.

"I knew Jake had shot himself, it was a crime scene, so I left and secured the house and remained outside for a few hours," he said.

"I used my radio to let [the control room] know I had found Maxine. Initially it was just myself at the front door, then I got a colleague to bring police tape so I could secure it."

PC Victoria Smith, based at Crownhill Police Station, also spoke to the court about her involvement.

"When we first heard about it we were in disbelief. It was an unusual incident, not something you expect in Plymouth."

PC Smith and her colleague, PC Richardson, went to Linear Park where they found victim Stephen Washington.

"He had no obvious injuries initially, but then we checked and we could tell he wasn’t breathing," she said.

Police at the scene of the attacks in Keyham

"While PC Richardson was giving CPR I heard armed response officers had arrived in Biddick Drive."

Stephen Randall, a member of the public, says he spotted Kate Shepherd injured in the doorway of Blush hair salon in Henderson Place and tried to help her.

"I could see that she required an ambulance," Mr Randall said.

"She looked just like a normal mum or nan who had gone to the shop to buy some groceries.

"I walked a short way into Bedford Street but couldn’t see anyone. I retraced my steps back to the female and police officers arrived.

"They took over giving first aid, one of them got a defibrillator out of the back of the police van.

"Then I looked up and saw the man with the gun coming into Henderson place.

Mr Randall says he shouted "he's back" to the police officers and PC Zachary Printer attempted to speak to Davison, who was holding the shotgun.

"The police officer was talking to the man in a calm manner, trying to get him to put the firearm down," Mr Randall said.

"I thought this was extremely brave, as the police officer was unarmed and facing a man with a gun.

"The gunman pulled the trigger and collapsed to the ground and a group of firearms officers stood over the male pointing their guns, it was obvious he was dead."

Ian Arrow, senior coroner, thanked emergency workers who responded to the tragedy, saying "their bravery must not go unnoticed" Credit: Elizabeth Cook

The coroner overseeing the inquest into the shootings thanked emergency workers who responded to the incident, saying their bravery "must not go unnoticed".

Ian Arrow, senior coroner for Plymouth and South Devon, addressed the court at the end of the fourth week of the hearing.

"It is difficult to overestimate the effects these deaths had on Keyham, Plymouth and the wider communities," Mr Arrow said.

"It’s clear that on August 12th there was a terrifying event taking place. There was on that day a noble and resolute response from individuals, whose bravery must not go unnoticed.

"I should like to publicly acknowledge the dedication to duty by police officers and paramedics at the scene, and particularly PC Printer who ran forwards towards Jake Davison, a man carrying a gun, which no doubt in PC Printer’s eyes was more likely than not to have caused the horrific injuries he had just seen.

"Human decency precludes me from saying what the paramedics had to deal with, however I thank them for their selfless work.

"I thank all those responders and investigators who have sought to return the community to normality. It will take care, comfort, sympathy and understanding.

"I do hope it also comes with learning and system change."

The inquest continues.