Pair jailed over riots gun attack

Two men have been handed lengthy jail sentences after being found guilty of taking part in a pre-planned gun attack on police officers during the summer riots last year.

Wesley Gray, 27, and Beniha Laing, 29, were linked to the shooting in the Aston area of Birmingham by a pistol and a revolver seized by police two months later, the city's Crown Court was told.

Gray and Laing both of no fixed abode, were found guilty of riot, possession of firearm with intent to endanger life, possession of firearms found in their possession on later occasion which was subsequently connected to the riot and reckless arson, said West Midlands Police.

Laing was sentenced to 35 years in prison and Gray was handed a 29-year term, said the force.

Over the last three weeks, Birmingham Crown Court heard how the men, who were part of a larger group of people and have been linked to a criminal gang, planned and orchestrated an attack on police on the ground as well as the force's helicopter at the height of the disorder in the city when they knew that police resources were stretched.

West Midlands Police said officers were lured to The Bartons Arms pub on the night of Tuesday August 9 at the same time that other areas of Birmingham and the region were experiencing pockets of disorder.

The pub was broken into, ransacked and spirits and petrol were used to set fire to the building. The furniture from the pub was then used to barricade the main High Street. The group, all wearing black clothing and masks, were intent on causing serious disorder and impacting on local people and emergency services.

Local CCTV showed the group also attempting to break into nearby entertainment venue The Drum. The footage shows them hammering through glass in an attempt to obtain more furniture to block the roads.

A police unit of unarmed officers trained to deal with disorder arrived and attempted to disperse the crowd but was confronted by the group who threw missiles and goaded them.

Some of the group then discharged at least 12 shots, using a number of different firearms in the direction of the officers, said police.