A POLICEMAN was stabbed four times after a knife-wielding man charged at armed response officers in front of stunned rush-hour crowds in Princes Street.
The officers were on routine patrol when they spotted a man with blood running down his face sitting on a bench near the bottom of the Mound at around 5.15pm.
The man was acting strangely and “punching himself in the head”, according to one eyewitness.
When officers approached him, he charged at them waving a knife, stabbing one of them four times in the shoulder, witnesses said.
Police wrestled the man across busy lanes of traffic before firing a taser gun which saw him slump onto the westbound tramline.
Both the injured officer and the bloodied man have been taken to the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary for treatment.
Eyewitness Nick McConnell, 17, watched Friday’s drama unfold and said the suspect was conscious but distressed after being tasered.
He said: “I saw the guy lying on the ground, moaning.
“He didn’t look like he was all there and had the taser wires hanging off of him.”
Piotr Walerowski, 29, who works as a security guard at H&M, captured the disturbance on his mobile phone.
The footage shows officers grappling with the man in rush-hour traffic yards away from queuing vehicles on Princes Street.
“The man had blood on his face,” he said.
“I saw two policemen trying to take the man into a police car, but he didn’t want to go.”
“He fought them, and tried to run away. He was being very aggressive, and I saw the police taser him.
“He fell down, and then they tasered him again. He was an older man, in his 50s. He was being very aggressive.”
After the incident, crime scene investigators could be seen removing a backpack with a rolled-up sleeping mat attached.
The rucksack had been lying on a nearby bench was placed into a brown paper evidence bag.
Investigators also removed the discharged taser wires from the street after photographing the scene.
Many shoppers and commuters were blissfully unaware of the fracas until a large crowd formed in the road to watch police restrain the man.
Neil MacGregor, 22, who works in the shoe outlet Office, said the shop “suddenly went really quiet” as everyone stopped to watch the brawl.
“We were shocked that there were so many people just stood there in the middle of the street, watching what was going on.
“There were loads of people standing around.”
Colleague Megan Montgomery, 19, believed there had been a collision on the road.
“We thought it was an accident at first, or that someone had been hit by a car,” she said. “But then our customers were saying it was a crime scene.”
A Police Scotland spokesman said: “At around 5.15pm Armed Response Officers who were on routine patrol in the city centre observed a male in the Mound area whose behaviour gave them cause for concern.
“After being approached the male became aggressive and presented a knife before struggling with police.
“A taser was deployed to bring the male under control before he was taken to the ERI for assessment where he is detained in police custody.
“One officer sustained an injury to his shoulder during the incident and has also been taken to hospital for treatment.”
The melee sparked traffic chaos across the city centre and saw the westbound carriageway of Princes Street closed off for around three hours while police probed the crime scene.
The incident briefly brought the city’s tram system to a standstill but it soon reopened with a limited route between Shandwick Place and Edinburgh Airport.
‘The man pulled out a Skean dhu’
BYSTANDER Andrew Burns, 17, watched the fracas from the opposite side of Princes Street.
He said: “The man looked like he was homeless, and he’d been asked to move on. The policemen came over, and the man stood up.
“There was a bit of an argument going on, and the man pulled out a skean dhu, and because the policeman was wearing his vest, he went to go stab him in the shoulder. He stabbed him four times.
“The reinforcements came in about two minutes and tasered him on the ground.
“The injured officer was taken into a police car, and when the ambulance arrived he came out of the police car with bandages on and he was put in the ambulance.”
55 attacks per day in UK
MORE than 20,000 incidents of violence against police officers were recorded in the UK last year, according to official statistics.
That represents 55 attacks a day, or more than one every half hour – and the figure is climbing. In the year to April, there were 580 more police assaults recorded than 2013.
A total of 5555 police officers were assaulted in Scotland in the year to April 2013. Almost one in three of Scotland’s police officers are attacked each year. According to the Scottish Police Memorial Trust, the last officer to be killed in an assault was Constable Lewis Fulton of Strathclyde Police, who was fatally stabbed by a mentally ill man in Glasgow in 1994.