New video footage released by West Midlands police confirms witness reports that looters fired shots at officers and a force helicopter during the London riots this month. The footage heightens the concerns among some in law enforcement who believe that some of the seemingly random violence and looting was conducted by organized criminal gangs.
The footage was taken in the Newtown area of Birmingham on the night of August 9. The Guardian reports on the violent group of young men:
"The group, all masked and wearing black clothing, caused extensive damage to the pub and the surrounding area, which has been plagued by shootings in recent years.
As officers arrived at the scene shortly before midnight, petrol bombs were thrown at a marked police car. It is believed as many as 11 shots were fired at the officers and a helicopter.
Eyewitnesses reported seeing a series of flashes and hearing the sound of gunshots as police approached the looters, forcing officers to take cover behind vehicles."
Officers believe that the 30 to 40 men in Newtown intended to set fire to the Barton Arms pub. Police released the footage to show the riots' potential for serious harm to officers and members of the public. Chief Constable Chris Sims said to media:
"'Eleven shots were fired at unarmed officers to enable disorder to continue, whilst petrol bombs were also thrown at officers who initially attended the scene,' he said.
'This footage shows seemingly co-ordinated criminal behaviour with no regard for people's lives, whether it be through the setting of a fire, shooting at unarmed officers or shooting at the police helicopter.'"
The incident is being treated as attempted murder and arson. Since the riots began West Midlands Police have so far arrested more than 500 people, of whom more than 140 have been charged.