A Bury St Edmunds estate was sealed off by armed police after reports that a resident had been threatened with a gun.
Armed officers, a hazardous area response team (HART) and police dog units were called to a property in Mayfield Road, on the Nowton Estate, just after 1.30pm.
Cars and pedestrians were prevented from using the road for more than two hours, while a police cordon was in place.
Neighbour Alan Ryder said he became aware of the incident when he saw a police car being used as a road block outside the house where he has lived for more than 25 years.
He said: “I happened to go into the kitchen and saw a police car parked across the road.
“I noticed one of the policemen had a gun and then I noticed two had guns, and every time I went to have another look things had escalated.”
“I was born in Liverpool and I never thought the first time I would see armed police on the street would be in a sleepy town in Suffolk,” he said.
He added: “One of them grabbed a big bag out of the car and got out military equipment, like soldiers, helmets and shields, and marched across the road.”
He watched officers enter a block of flats shared by Havebury tenants and leaseholders holding a battering ram and, moments later, he heard a door being hit and a police dog ‘barking his head off’.
Another neighbour, Shaun Aldows, had been sleeping after working an early shift when a concerned friend phoned.
“She’d gone to pick her children up from school but the road was blocked off and she couldn’t get through. I looked out and saw a police car parked there and police with bullet proof vests on.”
The 43-year-old, who has lived at his address for 11 years, said: “That’s the worst I’ve seen since I’ve lived here, it’s usually a pretty quiet estate.”
Amanda Everett happened upon the scene while walking her dog.
She said: “You walk around with your dog and your children and you don’t think anything can happen in a quiet neighbour hood.
“There’s a lot of professionals living on this estate, it’s just not what you expect. I never dreamt that coming up here I’d see all these police.”
Parents expecting to pick their children up from Hardwick Middle School were confronted by flashing blue lights and cordons.
A medical response car, two ambulances, a HART forward command vehicle, six police cars, two dog units, an armed police unit and a forensic science van were among the vehicles at the scene.
Unable to leave using the main school entrance, staff escorted pupils to Nowton Park, with messages sent out through Parent Mail and radio.
Hayley O’Sullivan arrived to collect her 11-year-old son but, unable to reach staff at the school because ‘the switchboard was jammed’, she waited near Kestrel Road for the cordon to be lifted.
Headteacher Andrea Smith said: “We didn’t actually have to evacuate the school. We left at the same time but we had to do it by a different route.”
A police statement said officers were called to the property in Mayfield Road following reports from a local resident that a man had come to his home and threatened him, while holding what appeared to be a handgun.
The statement said initial reports suggested the incident stemmed from a neighbour dispute.
A 23-year-old man from Bury, arrested on suspicion of possession of a firearm, was later released and will face no further action.
Matthew Norwood, 22, of Tutelina Road, Great Whelnetham, was charged with possession of a firearm when prohibited, possession of an air weapon with intent to cause fear of violence and possession of a blade/pointed article in a public place.
He was due to attend Bury St Edmunds Magistrates’ Court yesterday.