VIDEO: Awards given to heroes who wrestled Crawley College gunman to the ground
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Police have praised the heroics of two employees who wrestled a gunman to the ground following a shooting at Crawley College.
Sandijs Dreimanis has today (Friday 11 March) been jailed for the incident which sparked a significant police response on 26 April last year.
Around 3.12pm that day, police received multiple reports of a man armed with a gun, firing at people at the campus in College Road, Crawley.
A spontaneous firearms incident (SFI) was declared by Sussex Police, and immediate support was sought from neighbouring forces including Surrey, the Met, Kent, Hampshire, Thames Valley, British Transport Police and wider national colleagues.
A few minutes later, police were informed the suspect had been detained.
After hearing gun shots and seeing students flee from the campus, a lecturer and member of support staff pursued the defendant and challenged him – even after he turned around, raised his right arm and discharged a firearm directly towards them.
Together, they managed to disarm the 18-year-old of a gun – later confirmed to be a blank-firing imitation firearm – and a knife.
They were assisted by further staff until officers arrived to arrest him shortly afterwards.
Dreimanis, from Crawley, was arrested, and en route to custody he told officers: “It’s a blank, I just wanted people to get scared.”
Investigations revealed he had entered a surplus store in the area on 22 April and exchanged an airsoft pistol for a blank-firing pistol replica, which he later appeared to paint black in order to make it look more realistic.
Dreimanis, a former student at Crawley College, was charged with four offences: possession of an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence; possession of a knife on a school premises; and two counts of assault occasioning actual bodily harm.
He was remanded in custody and over the course of the next few months, he pleaded guilty to all four offences, before being sentenced to five years and six months’ imprisonment at Lewes Crown Court on Friday 11 March – this includes time already spent in custody.
Following the hearing, the two Crawley College employees who detained Dreimanis each received a High Sheriff’s Award.
They were commended by Her Honour Judge Laing QC for their “extraordinary degree of bravery which was most remarkable”.
Chief Inspector Shane Baker, District Commander for Crawley and Mid Sussex, said: “This incident led to a significant policing response from both Sussex Police and numerous colleagues from other forces areas.
“Officers quickly responded to Crawley College after we received multiple reports of shots being fired, and it is largely thanks to the heroics of a lecturer and a member of support staff that the suspect was safely detained.
“They put themselves in harm’s way in order to protect their students, their colleagues and the wider public, and we are extremely grateful for their quick thinking actions.
“It was unknown whether or not the suspect, who was armed with a knife and a gun, was acting alone. Therefore we needed to manage any ongoing threat, evacuate people quickly and search the buildings and grounds to determine all was safe.
“A spontaneous firearms incident was declared, along with the nationally-agreed response to potential attacks of a marauding and terrorist nature.
“People would have seen a large number of officers responding, given that this incident was at a large educational establishment with children and young adults. In total, more than 80 officers were deployed to the college, and the surrounding roads were closed off to contain the scene and ensure public safety.
“An operation of this scale is not without impact to those at the college and their families and the community, but also the police at the time and with the large scale investigation that followed.
“I would like to thank the college and all emergency services who supported the operation, and those involved in the investigation.
“I would also like to reassure the local community that thankfully, this sort of incident is extremely rare in Sussex and it was not terror-related. Thankfully, no one was seriously hurt.”
Vicki Illingworth, Principal at Crawley College, added: “Speaking on behalf of the Crawley College community, we would like to share our gratitude to the emergency services and to our staff and students for the courage and resilience they displayed during what was a difficult and challenging time.
“The actions which took place in April last year were distressing for us all, but we are thankful no-one was seriously hurt and we have been able, as a community, to move forward together.
”We continue to support our students and staff, and we remain grateful to the two staff members whose heroic actions helped to protect our college community.”