Northamptonshire Police officer shot three times in the head nominated for national bravery ward

"I remember a loud crack and an intense burning, pins-and-needles-type pain at the top of my forehead," says sergeant

Friday, 5th November 2021, 3:15 pm

A Northamptonshire Police officer shot three times in the head while trying to save an elderly couple has been nominated for a national bravery award.

Sergeant Dave Cayton answered what appeared to be a routine call of a man having a mental health crisis.

On his own, with back-up still some distance away, he tried to engage with the man but found himself starting down the barrel of a handgun.

Sgt Dave Cayton has been nominated for a national bravery award for facing down an armed gunman

He later needed surgery to remove a number of ball bearings from his face and head — yet still begged to go back and finish his shift.

Now, Sergeant Cayton has been made one of 43 nominations — one from each Force in England and Wales — at next month's national Police Bravery Awards, organised by the Police Federation.

These awards recognise officers who have put the safety of others before themselves. From running into burning buildings, wading into deep waters, tackling armed offenders, being shot at, stabbed, driven at.

Sgt Cayton told the story of his confrontation in a compelling interview earlier this year, revealing how he managed to fire his Taser and single-handedly forced his attacker to back down before handcuffing him.

Marshall Coe was jailed for 11 years following his attack on PS Cayton

The officer, who still carries a visible scar on his right temple less than an inch away from his eye, said: “Things unravelled very quickly after I arrived at the property.

"I got to the dog-leg in the stairs at which point the barrel of the weapon was pointed directly at my face, then he started repeatedly firing at me.

"I remember a loud crack of the weapon discharging feeling an intense burning, pins-and-needles-type pain at the top of my forehead — which I presumed was first impact.

Marshall Coe, 40, was jailed for 11 years for wounding with intent and possession of a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence at Northampton Crown Court in May this year.

PS Cayton still carries a scar on his temple after being shot with ball bearings

"At that point — and it sounds clichéd — everything slows down and senses start playing tricks on you.

“The best way I can explain it is the fight or flight choice and I genuinely believe you don’t get to choose which one your body decides on.

“That’s where the benefit of being a police officer and the training you receive and the morals that you have, come into play.

"So my body’s reaction was, I need to fight, I need to defend myself and I need to protect the other people in this property."

Despite bleeding heavily from his injuries, Sgt Cayton took down Coe with the help of a Taser all Northamptonshire Police officers are now able to carry. Each carries two cartridges designed to incapacitate targets.

Sgt Cayton added: "I discharged my Taser at the male — which had zero effect! So I ended up firing both cartridges.

"Again, it's testament to the training we receive that muscle memory made me realise his behaviour had not changed and a second shot was necessary.

"It sounds ridiculous when you've been shot at, but the thing that caused me most fear was I surmised he had run out of a ammunition but was still holding a knife.

"I'd already discharged both Taser cartridges so I worked out my tactical options at that stage were somewhat limited."

Back-up officers arrived at the scene in Neuville Way, Desborough, to find the suspect already handcuffed and their colleague wounded.

Sgt Cayton added: "Other officers were on route but it felt like a lifetime, a lot longer than it actually was, before they got there.

"It was only after the gentleman was detained that I realised exactly where I was hurting. A bigger factor was I didn't know what I'd been shot with apart from it was a semi-automatic weapon of some description.

"I'd never been shot before so I didn't know what it feels like or the extent of the injuries.

"I had a CT scan and consultants told me I had a ball-bearing in the side of my head and another in the top of my head.

"It was only when I saw the CT images and I could see the bright white ball showing up for myself that I accepted I'd actually been shot and this, potentially, could be quite serious.

"One scan showed ball bearing was millimetres from very thin piece of bone between my nose and brain so it, potentially, could have been life-threatening.

"I just feel very lucky not to be blind... or dead."

Doctors later removed three metal ball bearings from the sergeant's head.

Yet Chief Constable Nick Adderley revealed: "Once Sgt Cayton had the ball bearings removed from his face, at hospital, he wanted to resume duty that night!

"Blooded and seriously injured, he wanted to rejoin his team because it was ‘extremely busy’.

"It was unbelievable service to the public and our force."