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Devon & Cornwall Police Federation

Hero police officer "small cog in a big machine" of those trying to keep public safe

22 February 2023

A police officer who ran towards a gunman who had killed five people has described himself as a “small cog in a big machine” of emergency service workers trying to help victims and keep the public safe.

PC Zach Printer approached Jake Davison in an attempt to stop him harming any other members of the public, before the gunman turned his weapon on himself.

Davison had shot and killed his mother Maxine Davison; three-year-old Sophie Martyn; Sophie’s father Lee; Stephen Washington; and Kate Shepherd.

In August 2021, Zach and his colleague Sgt Graham Temple heard a call over police radio about a potential shooting in the Keyham area of Plymouth. When they arrived on scene they found Kate with critical injuries.

Zach said: “Graham went to the boot of the vehicle to get the first aid kit and the defibrillator. Kate was being cradled by a member of the public. My first thoughts were to establish her injuries by doing a primary survey. It was critical to get the information back to the FIM, once we’d established what her injuries were, that this was a live shooting incident and not a BB gun or air pistol. Following my assessment, the injuries were consistent with a shotgun injury, and there was a shotgun cartridge lying next to her on the pavement.

“At this time there was no thought about where the assailant may be or how we were going to manage the scene. Our focus was completely on Kate and how we were going to assist her until professionals, the paramedics, turned up with their equipment, to facilitate the care of her. We managed to get a defibrillator on her in case she went into cardiac arrest. At the point so were dealing with her, I knew she was alive. I could feel the breath on the back of my hand. I tried to reassure her. I said, ‘It’s alright. The police are here. My name’s Zach and I’m going to look after you’. We kept reassuring her.

“During this process there were sudden screams and shouts from the public assembled: ‘He’s back, he’s back, he’s got a gun, he’s got a gun’.

“I don’t know why but I just looked to my left and I saw a figure come from Bedford Street onto Henderson Place. I don’t know why I did it, perhaps it’s instinctive, perhaps it was due to my training, both military and police, but I knew this individual had to be stopped advancing any further to protect the public, protect my colleagues, and ultimately to protect the individual.

“In my assumption, he had suffered huge mental trauma through the events that day, and I had to get his focus on me so I could hopefully negotiate with him should I get closer. So I ran towards him with that in mind. I got within 20 metres or so. He had placed the barrel of the weapon underneath his chin and pulled the trigger.

“My only thought at the time was to protect the public that were still in the vicinity, and to protect my colleagues that were with me. He had to be stopped in his tracks. No more than to negotiate with him. I had no gun on me. I couldn’t take any offensive action to stop him, so it was purely one of… I need to stop him where he is and try and talk to him, to bring him down and for us to deal with him.”

While Zach - who has retired from the service after 17 years - was singled out for his actions during the inquest, he emphasised that he was a small part of a much larger emergency service team dedicated to help victims and protect the general public who were in the area on that day.

He explained: “Graham was very much a part of that on that day. We both entered the incident at the same time. We both looked after Kate. As I got up and ran towards Davison, I knew Graham was up and preparing to back me up. He shouldn’t not go unnoticed.

“It’s the same for PC Ceri Tiffany-James and Sgt Greg Bridget who drove up at the point where Davison had shot himself.

“But with all of this, it’s all about teamwork. We were just small cogs in a big machine that day. The mission of the force is teamwork to safeguard the communities and neighbourhoods, and that’s what happened that day. There are many, many officers within the force – the comms operatives, the CSIs – all had to do a job that day, in tragic circumstances, in horrific scenes.

“There are a number of people that need recognition and it’s not just about me. It was about the team that day and I think everyone who dealt with that job is a credit to the force and should be recognised as such.

“My thoughts are with the Shepherd family in particular, who I’ve got to know well, but also the families of the other victims. It was a horrible, tragic event that occurred that day, and no words can ever take their pain or anguish away, and I with them well for the future.”

Richard Poole, Devon and Cornwall Police Federation’s CAPLO and Deputy Secretary said: “What Zach and all his colleagues did that day was nothing short of remarkable and is an absolute testament of what they joined the service to do.

“They were met with the unimaginable and reacted in a quick calm and professional manner. Their instinct was to rush into danger to protect the public and tend to the injured.

“This incident will stay with them for a lifetime, but I and the public will remember for a lifetime what they did that day.

“I am proud and humbled to call them my colleagues.”