As emergency services in Birmingham struggled to cope during last summer’s riots, a group of young men hatched a plan to attack the police.
While trouble flared mainly in the city centre, the group started a small fire at the Bartons Arms pub in Aston before blockading the nearby A34 dual carriageway.
They moved on any members of the public that came by the blockade before as many as 12 shots were fired at officers, with one aimed at the force helicopter.
“They stood, took aim and fired in the direction of the officers,” said senior investigator Det Insp Andy Bannister.
No-one was hurt but it could easily have become a murder investigation, he added.
Six people were later convicted at Birmingham Crown Court in connection with the disturbances that took place by the pub on 9 August and early hours of 10 August last year.
Tyrone Laidley, 20, of Chadsmoor Terrace, Nechells, Birmingham; Renardo Farrell, 20, of The Terrace, Finchfield, Wolverhampton; Wayne Collins, 25, of Ouseley Close, Luton, Bedfordshire; Nicholas Francis, 26, of Thetford Road, Great Barr; and Jermaine Lewis, 27, of Summerton Road, Oldbury, West Midlands; were convicted of riot, arson and firearms offences.
The sixth, a teenager who can not be named for legal reasons, was convicted of riot and firearms offences but cleared of arson.
Two other defendants were cleared of all charges.
West Midlands Police treated the attack as a separate incident to the disturbances and looting that were taking place in the city.
The rioting started in Tottenham, north London after a peaceful demonstration on 6 August over the death of a man who was shot by police.
It spread to other cities including Birmingham, Liverpool, Nottingham and Bristol over the next four nights.
There were 700 to 800 people on the streets in Birmingham on 8 August outnumbering police two to one, the West Midlands Police said.
While the city was in the grip of looters, the gang in Aston planned its attack.
Det Insp Bannister said: “It was pre-orchestrated with a view to creating an incident which we would say was setting fire to the Bartons Arms pub with complete disregard to the residents upstairs before blocking the carriageway to draw police officers there and attack them.
“It’s completely distinct from any other experience that I’ve had where police officers arrive and individuals ditch their weapons or run away.”
The court heard that as many as four guns were present.
The mob started small fires in the Grade II listed pub and stole the cash till. The fires were put out without anyone being injured.
The A34 dual carriageway in and out of the city was blocked with tables and chairs taken from the pub and a nearby nightclub.
There was also at least one attempt to carjack a taxi during the incident, CCTV footage showed.
“When you look at the event itself on CCTV, you can see the gang creating a blockade across the road,” Det Insp Bannister said.
“As members of the public come into the blockade, they are moved away.
“There is no attempt to attack those individuals.
Shots close to officers’
“It’s not until the police arrived in some force that the gang form up and shots are discharged.”
Continue reading the main story
The force refused to confirm or deny in January as part of a freedom of information (FOI) request by BBC News whether sensors to detect gunfire installed in parts of the city, including Aston, were triggered by the incident.
The Shotspotter Gunshot Location System was set up in the West and Central local policing unit, which includes Handsworth, Aston and Newtown, in December 2010.
“You can clearly see one individual take aim and fire what appears to be a shot at the helicopter with absolutely no regard for the crew that were on there or residents in the properties below if it came down,” Det Insp Bannister said.
“I’ve never come across it in my experience.
“I think in this instance, when you look at CCTV and ballistic analysis of what happened, we were very, very close to a murder investigation.
“Shots passed very close to the officers on the ground.”
Officers analysed more than 300 hours of CCTV footage, using forensic experts and mobile phone technology as part of their bid to track down the offenders.
The pub has since undergone repairs and reopened.
The landlord told BBC News that children as young as 13 were involved in the incident.