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Man who plotted to attack school and police HQ guilty of firearms and explosive offences

A custody photo of Reed Wischhusen
Reed Wischhusen

A man who planned to carry out a series of mass shootings disguised as a police officer has been convicted of possessing firearms and explosives with intent to endanger life.

Reed Wischhusen described in detail in a 1,700 word document titled ‘Revenge’ how he first wanted to murder 10 named people he felt had wronged him in a “hitman-style attack”.

The 32-year-old then planned to carry out attacks at his former school and Avon and Somerset Police Headquarters in Portishead, using improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and a sub machine gun.

Wischhusen’s plans came to light after he was shot by armed officers when he pointed a gun at them at his home in the small village of Wick St Lawrence, near Weston-super-Mare, on 28 November last year.

Detectives who led the investigation liaised with Counter Terrorism Policing South West but neither the incident at his home, or his plans to kill, were treated as terrorism.

Wischhusen spent four months in hospital before he was charged with a total of eight firearms and explosive offences.

Today, (Friday 13 October), following a two-week trial at Bristol Crown Court, he was convicted of all charges.

During the trial, the jury heard armed officers shot Wischhusen after fearing for their lives when he ran down the stairs of his house pointing a gun at them. Moments earlier he had fired the weapon at himself in a failed attempt to take his own life.

The court heard how, after discharging their firearms, officers immediately provided Wischhusen with first aid, saving his life.

The armed officers had attended the address along with two neighbourhood officers and an observer after police had received intelligence Wischhusen may have been attempting to convert blank-firing guns.

A subsequent search of the semi-detached property uncovered a vintage lathe in an outhouse which Wischhusen used to convert multiple firearms and, using instructions found online, partially build himself a sub machine gun.

Also inside the outhouse was a drill press which had been used to make nearly 50 rounds of live ammunition and a silencer.

More than 600 blank cartridges, nearly 1,500 primers – the component of a gun which propels the ammunition – and more than 1,000 unfired bullets for a range of different firearms were also seized along with a large quantity of assorted chemicals, timers, metal tubes, pressure cookers and ball bearings.

In addition, multiple items of police uniform – including body armour and several fabric Avon and Somerset Police badges – were found inside the house. A photo of Wischhusen dressed in police uniform and holding a gun was later discovered to be the background image on his phone.

Many of the items recovered from the address were later examined by experts. They determined a number of the firearms and homemade bullets were viable and had the potential to cause lethal harm while the chemicals could have been used to make a variety of homemade bombs.

In his defence, Wischhusen claimed the ‘Revenge’ document was “fantasy” and he had no intention of carrying the plans out. He accepted he had an interest in weapons and explosives and had at one time been keen to work for the Army’s bomb disposal unit.

He also told how he had previously handed in a number of firearms, including a viable sub machine gun, at Nailsea Police Station during an amnesty.

Explaining his actions on 28 November, he claimed he moved towards the armed officers hoping they would fear for their safety and shoot him dead.

Detective Chief Inspector Simon Dewfall, of the MCIT, said: “Reed Wischhusen’s plans are terrifying. Had he not been caught when he was, the consequences simply do not bear thinking about.

“He claimed his plans were merely fantasy but it’s clear he was actively working towards acting on them, with many of the items he identified as needing for his attacks recovered from his address.

“He had explosive substances and firearms capable of causing lethal harm while chillingly, he also had Avon and Somerset Police uniform.

“While the weapons he built were crudely constructed, they were extremely dangerous. Among those he admitted handing in during a firearms amnesty was a fully operational sub machine gun, which was loaded with ammunition.

DCI Simon Dewfall

“Incidents of this nature are thankfully few and far between, but when they do happen our officers are ready to respond to them. They are also a stark reminder of the dangers officers face every day. They put themselves on the line to keep the public and their colleagues safe.

“This was a challenging incident and has been a complex investigation and I’d like to thank all of my colleagues for the commitment they have demonstrated – it is because of their courage and dedication that a dangerous man has been brought to justice.

“I’d also like to thank the community of Wick St Lawrence and our partners. The support they have shown us both immediately after the incident and in the months since has been truly appreciated.

“Wischhusen can expect to serve a considerable amount of time in prison following today’s verdicts and I hope this provides reassurance to anyone concerned about his actions and plans.”

Andrew Pritchard, Specialist Prosecutor for CPS South West, said: “It is clear Wischhusen took a macabre interest in mass shootings and, had he not been stopped, had the means to enact his deadly plan with terrible consequences.

“His intention was to send a brutal and violent message to those he felt had wronged him throughout his life; from school bullies, to police staff who had refused him firearms licences, to his bosses at work.

“Throughout this trial, he attempted to paint the picture that he was a tinkerer with a vague interest in weapons and explosives. This picture was rejected by the jury and I would like to take the opportunity to thank the prosecution team’s efforts in unpicking Wischhusen’s account.”

Following today’s convictions, Wischhusen has been remanded into custody and will be sentenced on 15 December.