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In 1993, Leroy Smith shot James Seymour as he tried to take cover after another bullet had injured his colleague Simon Carroll.
They’d stopped Smith to search him after following him from a Brixton pub, but he didn’t want the police to discover his gun, nor the crack cocaine he had in his pockets.
Furthermore, he was wanted for escaping from prison.
Smith told MyLondon: “I was wanted for escaping from prison, I’d got ounces of crack cocaine in my pocket and my gun in my waist.
“So, I'm not trying to get searched whatsoever.
“I [wasn't] in the mindset of running from anyone. So that gave me just one choice, which is to do what I did.”
Three shots were fired, one into Carroll’s leg, another into Seymour’s back, and a third into the air to attract the attention of an accomplice with a motorbike so that he could escape.
PC Seymour recalled: “As I looked across, I [saw my colleague] Simon struggling with Leroy rolling around [and] Simon nearly had the better of him.
“Then Leroy pulled out a handgun out, he hit Simon in the leg with it, then the gun went off again, breaking his thigh bone, he told me to ‘disappear’.
“The third shot he fired hit me near the back, went across the top of my kidney and ripped out my side.”
He continued: “You don't want to believe it's happening.
“It's like a nightmare [and] the alarm’s going to go off, you'll wake up.
“The sense of helplessness, I can't tell you what that feeling is like. Physical pain, you can get over or you get through, [but] the mental side [is something else].
“I saw Simon get shot, knew it was my turn and there was nothing I could do.”
Now, 20 years after the fact, the pair are friends and work together to tell the younger generation about the risks of gun violence.
After turning his life around with the help of an ex-partner, Leroy wrote a book with the aim of educating youngsters.
James – who had kept his eye on Leroy’s situation since the incident – read that book and decided to reach out, despite the fact that he’d seen his shooter taunt him in court, pointing an imaginary gun in his direction.
James explained: “I found out about his life, his mum getting murdered, where he was brought up [and] the temptation of dealing drugs.
“And I don't care what anyone says, a lot of Black people have been discriminated against because of their colour and it still goes on.
“I thought, for people to go and get educated, get a real decent job and earn the same sort of money it takes years and you're facing prejudice as well.
“[So] I can see why young kids get involved in crime and I understood that with Leroy.
“That was the challenge for me understanding what happened.”
After a tense meeting at a train station, the two became friends, even working together on an updated version of Leroy’s book Out of the Box.
Now – despite opposition from some corners – the pair are friends, and perform good work together.
James concluded: “I know me meeting him has made a difference to several lives.
“That's all that matters.”
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