Two Nottinghamshire Police officers who tackled a gunman in a burning building have been honoured at a prestigious national awards ceremony.
Fire crews were trying to free 50 elderly adults, who were trapped in a burning block of flats, but had been forced to withdraw when a man brandishing a firearm began threatening them.
Sergeants Matthew Daley and Jody Leonardi were the first officers on the scene.
As armed officers arrived and moved through the building searching for the man, uniformed officers assisted in evacuating residents.
Sgt Daley suddenly saw the suspect exiting the building.
Fearing he would fire on emergency service workers or residents, both sergeants ran towards him.
The suspect raised the gun and hit PS Daley over the head, but PS Leonardi struck him with his baton before both officers wrestled him to the ground.
The incident happened in Woodvale, Wollaton Vale, at 12.15am on 24 October 2018 following the flat fire.
David Franks, 54, of no fixed abode, was sentenced at Nottingham Crown Court on October 2, 2019, for destroying and damaging property recklessly as to endanger life and two counts of possession of a firearm (BB gun) with intent to cause fear of violence. He was given a section 37 hospital order.
The sergeants’ heroic actions were recognised after they were shortlisted in the Police Federation of England and Wales Annual Police Bravery Awards, sponsored by Police Mutual.
The brave pair, along with other nominated officers from forces nationwide, spent time in Downing Street yesterday afternoon where they were all congratulated by Home Secretary Priti Patel prior to the awards ceremony held in London last night.
The annual awards acknowledge the courage shown by officers across the country in the line of duty to tackle criminals and keep the public safe. Last year’s event had to be postponed.
PS Daley’s and PS Leonardi’s bravery had already been previously recognised after they were presented with the Chief Constable’s Commendation and Queen’s Commendation for Bravery at Nottinghamshire Police’s own annual awards ceremony held in 2019.
Sgt Daley said: “I’m hugely proud to have been shortlisted for a national police bravery award and to be recognised at the highest level.
“Being a police sergeant on duty at the time of my actions, I just thought I was protecting my officers and the public like anyone would have done.
“The suspect had pulled the gun from his waistband before pointing it at police officers and fellow emergency workers. It was largely just a flinch reaction, that fight or flight scenario. We just did what we did because we wanted everyone to go home safe.
“It’s not until afterwards, when you have time to reflect on your actions, that you realise you have potentially placed yourself in great danger.
“Recognition at this level for the actions of police officers on duty is both an honour and a stark reminder of the dangers we face on front line policing.”
Sgt Leonardi added: “I saw a dangerous situation that needed to be resolved quickly, so my previous army and police training just kicked in.
“At the time we didn’t have time to think. That situation needed dealing with. Me and Matt just acted and between us we managed to get the suspect to the floor.
“Only afterwards when I thought about it, did I think the end result could have been very different.
“I’m glad I was able to keep the public safe. Everything else that has happened since has been a bonus.
“I’m very proud of this national award recognition and it was such an honour for us to go to Downing Street, a once-in-lifetime experience. You always see the front door on the news but it was so interesting to be there in person.”
Nottinghamshire Police Chief Constable Craig Guildford said: “Our officers showed incredible bravery, risking their own safety to protect others, when they tackled and disarmed the man, who posed a threat toward not only themselves, but also to other officers, emergency services personnel and the vulnerable occupants of a burning building.
“They were eventually able to overcome and successfully detain him, recovering the gun in the process.
“They are immensely deserving of this recognition and I’d like to commend them for their exemplary work in highly challenging circumstances.”
Nottinghamshire Police Federation chair Mark Petrovic added: “Matthew and Jody’s actions were courageous, utterly selfless and they displayed extreme bravery in the face of immediate danger.”
In a message of support to the award nominees, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “As frontline workers in the truest sense, you have been vital in helping us battle Covid-19. I salute each and every one of you for the role you have played.
“My admiration for you and your fellow officers and staff, already high, has only increased due to the role you have performed over the last 18 months, and I want to take this opportunity to pay tribute to all of the nominees for these police bravery awards for your exceptional achievements.”
Police Federation of England and Wales National Chair John Apter added: “We have the finest police officers in the world – dedicated public servants who, without hesitation, put themselves in danger to protect others.
“They are humble, professional and committed individuals who I am proud to call my colleagues. Police officers are everyday heroes who are anything but ordinary. My congratulations go to all the Police Bravery Awards nominees. They deserve every bit of recognition they receive.”