Paisley friends demand apology after 'traumatic' armed police raid

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Media caption,

'Mistaken identity' friends demand apology after armed police search

Four men are demanding an apology from Police Scotland after being apprehended by armed police.

Professional footballer Thomas Collins and his friends say they had guns aimed at them during the incident last Friday.

When they were released without charge three hours later, they claim officers told them to "suck it up".

Police Scotland said anyone with concerns about officers' conduct should contact the force.

Mr Collins said they were also removed from their car and handcuffed as bystanders watched during the incident.

He believes they were treated harshly and has suffered nightmares since the experience.

The police watchdog, the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner, said the actions of the police were "proportionate" and no investigation was necessary.

'Grow up'

The East Fife player told BBC Scotland: "I have never had experience with any kind of guns. I have never even seen one before so to have one pointed at me that was my first experience of that. It was scary at the time and now, I've had some crazy dreams about it. It was traumatising but has been exacerbated by some of the officers' behaviour.

"The officer who conducted the search said if we thought we should get an apology we should 'grow up'.

"We are four normal guys, none of us have struggled with mental health issues but if this had happened to people who did, it might have ended very badly. There was a real lack of humanity for people who had been put through such a traumatising experience."

Image caption,
Thomas Collins has suffered nightmares following an ordeal when police searched the car he was travelling in with three friends

The incident happened after the four men visited another friend in Glasgow who they say had been "struggling a bit".

Mr Collins said: "We went up there to see if he was OK and needed any help from anyone. We left his flat about 18:40 and when we left we saw three police jeeps with the armed response units in their balaclavas and a helicopter in the air.

"We wondered what was going on and we decided not to go the obvious way on to Charing Cross and the motorway because that was the way they had just gone. So we went a different way through the back of Kinning Park and Govan to get back to Paisley."

'Machine guns pointed at us'

When they got to Neilston Road in Paisley the four men realised that one of the police cars was behind them and say that within about three or four seconds the cars' blue lights had come on, and they were forced into the side of the road as one police car "swooped round the side of us and another two were backing us in from behind".

Mr Collins said: "We had absolutely no idea what was going on and we didn't have time to stop and think because they had got the machine guns out and they were pointing them at us, telling us to put our hands in the air.

"My friend that was driving was in complete shock."

He added: "I had been looking forward to a chilled night with my girlfriend, watching the Europa League final and then suddenly I was in the back of a police car in a small claustrophobic cage."

"Later on we found out that it was about firearms," he said. "They had some intelligence or identification that meant they thought we might have had firearms in our vehicle."

"I have no embarrassment in saying I have lasting effects from this. The other boys have had fears when hearing sirens over the last few days and I am left angry and distressed. I hope the police can give us some reasons and hopefully an apology."

Mr Collins said he understood what the police did was necessary and that they did not over-react.

But he said: "If I was a police officer with four young men under that trauma I would have asked them if they were OK."

Image caption,
The red Volkswagen Golf was stopped on Neilston Road in Paisley and guns were trained on the occupants

A spokeswoman for Police Scotland said: "During an intelligence-led operation in Glasgow around 19:10 on Friday 21 August 2020, a VW Golf was stopped by armed officers in Neilston Road, Paisley. This was a targeted stop by police as part of ongoing inquiries.

"As part of the same investigation, at around 18:30, officers stopped and searched a black Mazda 6 car on Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow, and recovered a firearm and ammunition.

"A 55-year-old man was arrested and charged in connection with the find and was due to appear at Glasgow Sheriff Court on Monday, 24 August, 2020. A report will be submitted to the procurator fiscal.

"Anyone who has concerns regarding police conduct is encouraged to contact police."

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