A man has died after police opened fire on a car close to the M5 near Bristol, with one witness saying police vehicles boxed in the car and up to 10 shots were fired.
Police sources said the incident was not terrorism-related and not believed to have been planned. It has been referred to the police watchdog, the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
The shooting took place on the A369 about 330ft (100m) from junction 19 of the M5 at about 9.30am on Wednesday. The road, the Portbury Hundred, is a few minutes’ drive from the Avon and Somerset police headquarters.
A witness told BBC Radio Bristol that police fired a number of shots into the car. “As I came out of Portishead … police were ahead of me. They surrounded it. They shot maybe five, six or 10 times. Then they dragged a man from the car to resuscitate him,” David Ellison said.
“It came off the roundabout towards Portishead and then was boxed in by cars. They shot through the passenger window. There were one or two marked cars and two more unmarked vehicles.”
There has been no confirmation of how many shots were fired.
Frazer Phillips wrote on the Hello Portishead Facebook page: “I was right next to it when it happened and heard about 4-5 shots.”
On the same page, Mark De Lancey wrote: “I got up on the roundabout as the police were smashing the guy’s windows and dragging him out. God knows what was happening!”
Avon and Somerset police said: “We can confirm a man died earlier this morning in an incident involving police firearms on the Portbury Hundred (A369) in Portishead.
“We have referred the incident to the Independent Police Complaints Commission. This has been a fast-moving incident and is now under investigation by the IPCC.”
A tri-force specialist operations unit car was parked at the police cordon. The unit is a collaboration between the Avon and Somerset, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire forces, and delivers an armed response in south-west England.
Pictures from the scene showed a man lying on the road covered in a blanket, which remained there for several hours. A right leg and white trainer could be seen. Bullet holes were visible on the car, a red Suzuki Swift, and what appeared to be a black handgun rested on the roof.
A police officer can legally use force if there is an honest belief that a suspect presents a threat to life: that they are acting in self-defence of their own life, or to protect other people, based on what they believed at the time.
Among armed officers, one of the hardest tasks is dealing with a suspect believed to have a gun who is in a moving vehicle, because it presents a myriad of challenges.
A spokesman for the IPCC said: “We are investigating an incident involving police firearms this morning on the A369 near Portishead, in which a man has died.
“IPCC investigators are at the scene gathering evidence and are attending the post-incident procedures. Our investigation is in its very early stages.”
Police said the road was likely to remain closed for some time.
The police and crime commissioner for Avon and Somerset, Sue Mountstevens, cancelled a Facebook Live event, saying: “Due to unforeseen circumstances, we will be postponing today’s Facebook Live. We apologise for the cancellation at such short notice.”
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