Officers recognised for their bravery tackling armed suspect in Crawley
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Two police officers who tackled a man brandishing a samurai sword have been recognised for their incredible bravery.
PC Ryan Oakley and Sergeant James Arrol-Barker were named as the South East regional winners of the 2022 Police Federation Bravery Awards for their actions in detaining the armed suspect in Crawley on Friday 22 October, 2021.
The full story of their bravery can now be shared after the suspect – a man named Ali Bhatti – was convicted at Hove Crown Court of one count of attempted murder, one count of grievous bodily harm with intent and possession of a bladed article in a public place.
Bhatti had used the lethal weapon to attack two innocent members of the public, causing them both significant physical injuries and lasting emotional trauma.
Police deployed to the area around 8pm in response to calls from Bhatti saying he was going to go out with a samurai sword and commit a crime. He had admitted taking crack cocaine and said he believed someone was trying to kill him.
While still on the phone to police, Bhatti left his house and drove a motorcycle towards the Broadfield Roundabout, where he crashed. He then started walking through traffic along Horsham Road, waving the samurai sword in the air.
A member of the public who recognised Bhatti asked him if he was alright. Bhatti responded by stabbing the 38-year-old man with the sword, causing serious injuries to his chest and forearm.
Bhatti continued the unprovoked attack and slashed at a second man, aged 61, who was walking along the footpath nearby, inflicting a large wound to his shoulder.
PC Oakley and Sgt Arrol-Barker were the first officers on the scene. They approached the armed suspect and deployed their Taser multiple times before it took effect and Bhatti fell to the ground. As soon as he did, the officers placed him in handcuffs, seized the weapon, and sought medical treatment for the two victims.
Bhatti, 33, unemployed, of Henderson Road in Crawley, was taken into custody and later charged with two counts of attempted murder and one count of possessing a bladed article in a public place.
He was found guilty by a jury on Tuesday 30 August and will be sentenced on Friday 2 September.
Detective Constable Scott Parry, of the Crawley Criminal Investigations Department, said: “This was an unprovoked and vicious attack on two innocent members of the public, who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“The lives of both men have been severely impacted by this assault – not only in their recovery from the physical injuries, but also the mental scars they now endure.
“I commend their bravery in giving evidence and thank them for supporting our investigation. I hope the verdict delivered today will help them move forward from this deeply traumatic incident, safe in the knowledge a dangerous man has been brought to justice.”
Speaking after the incident, PC Oakley said: “I’d be naïve to say I was fine after the incident. I didn’t speak to anyone about it for quite some time. It was my sergeant that recognised this and she supported me, getting me to open up about what I saw and what I’d experienced. I was referred for help and counselling. It took me a long time and I wouldn’t say I’m 100% back but I’m almost there.
“Teamwork is a massive part of the service and it helps us to aspire to succeed. I had teamwork at the time of the incident and teamwork to support me afterwards, and I’d like to thank my sergeants and colleagues for that.”
PC Oakley and Sgt Arrol-Barker were nominated for a 2022 Police Federation Bravery Award, and at a special ceremony held in London in July, found out they the winners for the South East region.
Sgt James Arrol-Barker said: “When I found out I was nominated for the award, I was very proud in the first instance. As most of us have said, it’s just our job. We joined the job to save people, keep people safe, and when you do something like that, it just comes naturally. So to be nominated for an award was particularly special and was a great privilege.”
PC Oakley added: “Once the incident was over, a couple of months later, I was told that I’d been nominated for an award. I was shocked, honoured and I felt undeserving.
“As a police officer, there’s a commitment we make to protect the public and act when others might run away or freeze.
“We are all people, we all take action and risk our lives every day to protect the public. It’s why we signed up to the job.”
Commending the actions of the two officers, Chief Superintendent Howard Hodges, divisional commander for West Sussex, said: “I am so proud of James and Ryan who have rightly been recognised for their bravery and professionalism in responding to this dangerous and shocking incident.
“Their actions are in the finest traditions of policing; running towards danger and putting themselves in harm’s way to protect the wider public.
“Policing is a challenging profession but brings out the very best in all of our staff and this is an excellent example of this which has been deservedly recognised on this occasion.”