Herts PC Receives Bravery Award After Being Shot By Offender

28th October 2015

A Hertfordshire Police Constable has won a prestigious regional Police Bravery Award after chasing down a pair of armed gunmen who had kidnapped and threated to kill another man.

PC Christopher Kouwenberg was shot at least five times while pursuing one of the suspects on foot, moved an elderly bystander to safety and ultimately rescued the kidnap victim who was tied up in the back of the car and had a gun put to his head.

PC Kouwenberg was presented with the award by police minister Mike Penning at the ceremony in central London at the event attended by senior government officials and chief constables from around the country.

On Saturday 16th November 2013, PC Christopher Kouwenberg and his colleague PC Ben Ambrose were on patrol in an unmarked police vehicle in Bricketwood, Hertfordshire, when their attention was drawn to a silver Peugeot car being driven by a man, with a front seat passenger and a third person in the rear of the vehicle.

On checking the number plate, they saw that the MOT certificate was out of date. PC Ambrose signalled for the vehicle to stop but instead, it drove onto the M1 and accelerated to speeds in excess of 100mph, weaving between motorway lanes and the hard shoulder before turning onto the A41.

The vehicle then drove at high speed through a red light before turning into Broadhurst Avenue, Edgware, where two occupants got out of the vehicle and ran off.

PC Ambrose chased after one man and PC Kouwenberg chased after the second, through the front gardens in Broadhurst Avenue. The officer could see that one man was holding a Webley revolver in one hand and a Colt self-loading pistol in the other. PC Kouwenberg shouted to the armed man to stop and he raised his arms directly behind him and fired two shots backwards, toward the officer, closely followed by three more.

PC Kouwenberg pushed a 92-year-old member of the public out of the line of fire and continued giving chase until he became aware of a number people in the area, so stopped the chase due to concerns for their safety.

When the officers returned to their police vehicle, they saw a man in the back of the Peugeot. His hands were tied and he had blood on his jacket. The victim told them that "they took me, put a gun in my mouth and said they were going to kill me".

During a search a Webley revolver and spent ammunition were discovered hidden in a bush. Further searches were carried out in the area. A Colt self-loading pistol, a block of cocaine with a street value of £20,000 and clothing later proven to belong to one of the suspects was found.

Enquiries with the registered keeper of the Peugeot, plus mobile phone call data and other evidence identified the driver of the car. On Sunday 17th November 2013 one of the men was arrested when he attended St Mary's Hospital, London. He was interviewed but denied his criminal involvement in the incident.

A mobile phone was located in the Peugeot which was linked to another of the men. CCTV cameras in the area had captured images of him. A manhunt started and on Thursday 29th November 2013, officers searched an address in Neasden Lane, northwest London. The suspect was arrested and interviewed. He also denied any involvement in the incident.

The trial of the two started in March 2014 and lasted six weeks at St Albans Crown Court under His Honour Judge Andrew Bright QC.

David Rhoden, 28, and Clayton McKenzie, 36, were found guilty at St Albans Crown Court of kidnap, firearm and drugs offences. The two were convicted of kidnap, carrying a firearm with criminal intent, Possession of a controlled drug (Class A) with intent to supply, possessing a firearm at the time of committing an offence and ABH. Rhoden was further convicted of making use of a firearm with intent to resist arrest and possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life. Rhoden received a sentence of life imprisonment, to serve a minimum of 10 years and 190 days and McKenzie also received life imprisonment to serve a minimum of six years and 190 days.

The judge made commendations: "Before I leave this case, I would like to commend several of the police officers and support staff involved in it for the part they played in bringing the two defendants before the Court.

"PC Christopher Kouwenberg who showed great courage in continuing to chase David Rhoden after he had seen that he was carrying a handgun in each hand. Once PC Kouwenberg realised that shots were being fired in his direction, he showed remarkable presence of mind in taking steps to protect from harm an elderly bystander who was at serious risk of being shot. In my view, the way in which PC Kouwenberg conducted himself throughout this incident is worthy of the highest commendation and reflects great credit upon the police service."

Vojislav Mihailovic, Hertfordshire Police Federation of England and Wales said: "The swift, brave and selfless actions of PC Christopher Kouwenberg ensured that members of the public were not injured or killed, in a chase that was dangerous, following a reckless gunman. The five shots that were aimed toward him could easily have resulted in a tragedy. He richly deserves this nomination."

Stephen Mann, CEO, Police Mutual, said: "This incident is another example of the real dangers faced by officers across the country. Police Mutual is honoured to sponsor the Police Bravery Awards and congratulate the officers who have shown tremendous dedication and commitment to their role in protecting others, with little thought for their own safety. We thank you wholeheartedly for keeping us safe."

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