In shocking footage doing the rounds, police officers were doused in fuel after a high-speed chase while a crowd began chanting "light 'em up." The incident occurred in Basildon, Essex, in the UK last year, where eight cops watching an organized event chased after a reckless motorcyclist for eight miles with a police helicopter helping out from above. When the officers stopped the rider at an estate and stepped forward to arrest him, as many as 30 people surrounded the officers, with one woman even threatening the officers with a hammer while another poured petrol over them, reports The Sun.
As many as 90 officers rushed to help prevent their colleagues from being lit on fire. During the ordeal, two of the officers had to be rushed to a hospital as they ingested the fuel and had to have the liquid washed out of their eyes. Police Constable Andrew Bird, who was at the scene and spoke in BBC documentary Critical Incident, said he saw a man "sprinting full speed towards where we were." He said: "I was pretty much at the bottom of the pile. You've got officers trying to get him off of me, he had his arms wrapped around my legs trying to keep hold of me." Then a 28-year-old Justin Jackson appeared, holding a watering can that was filled with petrol. Another PC, Mathew Cutts, tried to stop Jackson—fearing that he was about to throw acid at the officers. Cutts continued: "I could smell petrol so I sort of fumbled around to get my baton out but once I've got it I've put it behind my head and just struck him in line with my training."
Despite his fight back, PC Cutts felt the pain and he even felt his skin stinging after being covered in petrol. Chief Inspector Jonathan Baldwin noted that the officers were worried about being set on fire. "One match, one lighter, one spark could result in us going up in flames and being disfigured for life or possibly even dead." That supposedly was the intention, as several officers reportedly heard people yelling: "Who's got matches, who's got a lighter, let's set them on fire." Baldwin added: "I was hearing them shout 'light them up'." The inspector said that the officers didn't even consider running away from the scene because that wasn't in their DNA. "I don't know how we didn't just cut and run," he added, "but then that's not the way we're wired - we all stuck together. There's something running in the core of us that says you don't run away from the danger, you run towards it."
Since the incident, almost all the perpetrators have been arrested with hefty punishment handed out to them. Jackson was sentenced to three years and nine months in prison, while a 17-year-old from Basildon was disqualified from driving for a year and fined. Justin, the woman who held a hammer in her hand, was later charged with possession of an offensive weapon and was sentenced to nine months in prison. She was also suspended for 18 months, fined £140, and told to complete 200 hours of unpaid work. The video of this shocking incident made it to the public just days after Sergeant Matt Ratana was shot and killed at a police station in Croydon, South London. Ratana was reportedly shot with a smuggled revolver by a suspect currently being interrogated in police custody.