NEIGHBOURS have told of the drama of being caught up in a three-hour search by armed police sparked by reports of a man with a gun.
Detectives confirmed that the arrest of a man on suspicion of aggravated burglary was linked to the firing of a pellet type gun in the area of Cheshire Road and Dinan Way in Exmouth.
After a member of the public reported seeing someone with a gun, a group of armed officers as well as police dog units and the force helicopter were deployed to join a major search operation at around 7.45pm on Saturday.
A 24-year-old was subsequently arrested at around 10.40pm. He was taken into police custody for questioning and later released on bail until November pending further inquiries.
Detectives are appealing for witnesses to what they described as a "disturbance" in the Dinan Way/Cheshire Road area between 7pm and 8pm involving around four to six people aged in their 20s.
Some residents living in a block of flats on the road were evacuated as officers searched their homes for the suspect.
Witnesses have described seeing about 50 officers, including around 15 in full riot gear.
Detective Sergeant Alan Simons, who is leading the investigation, justified the level of police response to reports of what was believed to be a real gun.
Layla Densham, 20, was one of the residents evacuated from the flats.
"Me and my boyfriend were sat watching television when all of a sudden a policeman in riot gear ran past our window," she said.
"The police came to the door and told us to wait out the front so they could search our flat and we were asked for the layout of it.
"It was crazy – we didn't have a clue what was going on.
"My little girl was asleep in bed at the time so I wasn't happy about it. I didn't have any shoes on and was only allowed to get them as they were just inside the door. We were probably waiting outside for half an hour to 45 minutes.
"You don't expect things like this to happen. It was the maddest thing to ever happen round here."
Neighbour Rebecca Rowlands, 20, said: "I was just putting my son to bed and could hear a helicopter hovering really low overhead.
"I looked out and saw loads of police officers with shields and helmets on going into a block of flats. And there were several police vans and police cars and two dogs. Lots of police were coming and going.
"Lots of residents were standing round talking and there were lots of rumours going round about guns being fired.
"It was worrying as lots of people have children round here. It's normally really quiet as soon as the kids go to bed. You don't expect this sort of thing to happen in this area. It was pretty shocking."
No one was injured in the incident and police have confirmed the pellet gun was not fired at anyone.
Det Sgt Simons said: "Our inquiries to establish the exact sequence of events are continuing. It would be helpful to hear from anyone who saw a disturbance involving a group of young people in the Dinan Way area on Saturday evening.
"We responded to reports of someone with a gun. Until we establish any different, when there is the potential for serious danger to human life we will react strongly. We have a duty to eliminate this risk."
Anyone with information is asked to call police on 101, or ring Crimestoppers on 0800 555111, quoting reference number KE13/2219.