Ex-soldier shouted ‘I want to die’ before being tasered, inquest told

·4-min read
Spencer Beynon died after being Tasered by police in Llanelli (family handout/PA) (PA Media)
Spencer Beynon died after being Tasered by police in Llanelli (family handout/PA) (PA Media)

An ex-soldier who died after being tasered by police shouted “I want to die” seconds before he was shot at, an inquest has heard.

Spencer Beynon, 43, a former platoon sergeant from Llanelli South Wales died on June 14 2016 after officers were called by members of the public over concerns about his behaviour.

Oliver West, one of the two officers who responded to the reports, told the inquest on Wednesday he had “no other option” but to fire at Mr Beynon, claiming the veteran had stood up and tried to charge at him.

Other witnesses, including Mr West’s then colleague Pc Sian Beynon, have said they did not see Mr Beynon get to his feet before the officer discharged his weapon.

Mr Beynon, who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, had suffered with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) since returning from his tours, and had been medically discharged from the military.

On the day he died, reports were made to the police after he was seen running through the area barefoot, holding a cannabis bong, and shouting “I am Jesus”.

Mr Beynon’s family believe police should have carried out a welfare check on him hours before he was tasered by officers (family handout/PA) (PA Media)
Mr Beynon’s family believe police should have carried out a welfare check on him hours before he was tasered by officers (family handout/PA) (PA Media)

He was carrying his dog, which was later found to have been stabbed to death by Mr Beynon. He is also said to have smashed a window and threatened to throw acid on a woman.

When officers entered Maes Y Bwlch, a housing estate in Llanelli, they found Mr Beynon unresponsive and slumped on the floor with his back against the wall of a house, “bleeding profusely” from the neck, the court heard.

Mr West, a former police constable with Dyfed-Powys Police told the jury: “As I was looking at him, I could see there was a huge amount of blood coming from the right-hand side of his neck.

“As I started to walk towards the gentleman it’s then I started to hear noises coming from him.

“His eyes weren’t open.”

Mr West said he had drawn his Taser within around eight seconds of arriving at the scene, saying he believed there was a “high level threat”.

He told the court: “I shouted hello twice. I got within about five to six feet from him, and then in one movement he got to his feet.

Ex-police officer Oliver West claimed he had ‘no other option’ but to discharge his Taser (family handout/PA) (PA Media)
Ex-police officer Oliver West claimed he had ‘no other option’ but to discharge his Taser (family handout/PA) (PA Media)

“He shouted ‘I want to die’ and then he almost stumbled into the charge towards me.

“At that point I didn’t know what his intentions were. I had members of the public behind me, my colleague behind me. I felt I had to defend the people around me.

“Before I had time to think I pulled the Taser up, pointed at the mass in front of me, and I pulled the trigger.”

He said he saw Mr Beynon take a step back and fall to the ground after he was hit with the probes from the Taser, before he and Pc Beynon began administering first aid.

The court has heard from others who were at the scene who said they believe Mr Beynon remained on the ground during the incident, with others saying they saw him lean forward but stay seated.

Pc Beynon, who gave evidence on a previous day of the inquest, said she did not see Mr Beynon rise up, but claims to have been aware of movement before seeing him fall to the ground.

Sophie Khan, a lawyer for Mr Beynon’s family, asked Mr West why he did not warn Mr Beynon before firing the Taser.

Mr West said: “A warning should be given unless it’s inappropriate in the circumstances. A warning doesn’t have to be given.”

Police have denied Mr Beynon was killed by the Taser (family handout/PA) (PA Media)
Police have denied Mr Beynon was killed by the Taser (family handout/PA) (PA Media)

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) counsel Robert Harland asked whether Mr Beynon’s mental health had factored into his decision making.

Mr West said he was aware Mr Beynon could be having a mental health crisis but “the thing overriding my mind was the threat assessment”.

Asked if he still thought his actions on the day were correct, Mr West said: “It comes down to what else could I have done. In my mind, I had this person in front of me, coming towards me, I didn’t think I had the option to do nothing.”

Mr West no longer works for the force after he pleaded guilty to stealing a van battery from the scene of a road collision in 2019, the court was told.

Police have previously denied the Taser killed Mr Beynon.

Mr Beynon’s family believe a welfare check should have been carried out on him after his father Christopher Beynon phoned the police on the morning of his death saying his son had gone “absolutely insane”.

The four-week jury inquest into Mr Beynon’s death is taking place at Parc y Scarlets rugby stadium in Llanelli in front of acting senior coroner Paul Bennett.

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