Five police officers surround a car, a number of them with their weapons pointed at a man who was reportedly driving around Sydney streets armed with a gun yesterday.As Australian police are routinely armed and in most states are often equipped with tasers as well these sort of incidents are probably more common here. In fact Sydney police shot a guy in his own home only a couple of days ago, apparently as the result of a misunderstanding. And of course Sydney can riot as well as the next city, as the 2005 Cronulla riots showed. Still, despite the fact that so far it appears to share a few things in common with the Mark Duggan shooting in London (not in the race of the dead man because that's not been made public yet and he could be Mr Average White Guy for all we know right now, but just in that police quickly surrounded a car, shot an occupant and recovered a gun) I don't think the shops of Pitt Street Mall are going to need to rush out to buy window boarding before the first wave of looters hits because I don't think anything's going to happen.
Moments later, the gunman was dead. Police won't say whether officers or the man fired first - or whether the man fired at all - nor reveal how many shots were fired.
The drama unfolded on Castle St, Castle Hill, about 12.45pm after a 000 caller told police of a man armed with a gun driving on Showground Rd. Minutes later, the Toyota Hilux was spotted at the intersection of Pennant and Castle Sts, near the police station.
Plainclothed officers ran from the station, and Assistant Commissioner Denis Clifford said there was a confrontation with the driver and a number of shots were fired.
A handgun was removed from the vehicle and placed on the nearby median strip.
And I can't really put my finger on why. I don't think it's because this does happen a bit more with armed cops about and that people are blase about it - in fact if you think about it in terms of incidents per X number of 'police hours armed' it's probably quite rare, and possibly rarer than in countries where the police are not all armed all the time (ironically the last coppers I saw before I left the UK were wandering around with MP5s and a semi-auto pistol each). Perhaps it's just that I don't get the same feeling of them and us with Australian police, or at least not to the same extent as in the UK.
That might not be at all representative of the thoughts of Aussies but it's the way I see it, so my feeling is that people will watch and wait and see what comes up as a result of the investigation. If it had happened in Britain right now I reckon people would already be pulling garden walls apart for the bricks.