Stephen Dunford, 26, fired shots out of a vehicle on Northern Avenue in Arbourthorne on 12 January this year, leaving a boy with gunshot injuries to his thigh.
The 12-year-old victim was part of a group of teenagers who had met up to go to the cinema at Meadowhall that afternoon.
The senior detective leading the case has described it as one of the most complex investigations of his career.
At Sheffield Crown Court today (7 October) Dunford was handed three life sentences, one for each charge, to run concurrently. He will serve a minimum of 19 years behind bars.
In his sentencing remarks, The Recorder of Sheffield Judge Jeremy Richardson QC described Dunford as having told a “lava-flow of lies” throughout the trial, which left the jury in no doubt of his guilt.
He also said Dunford’s conduct was: “corrosive towards society” and that he had a life which was “replete for irredeemable criminality”.
He finished by saying that Dunford posed “immense danger” to the public.
Detective Chief Inspector Jade Brice, who led the investigation, praised the victim and his family for their courage. He said: “I cannot emphasise enough what a distressing ordeal this has been for this young man, his parents and his wider family.
“No child should have to feel such terror and no parent should find their child seriously injured on the doorstep of their home. I would like to commend the whole family for their bravery, they have co-operated fully and willingly with us.”
The investigation into the shooting was highly complex, with thousands of hours of CCTV recovered and examined by a specialist team of officers.
One of the key strands of the investigation was to link Dunford with the car that had been involved in the shooting.
DCI Brice explained: “The white Ford Focus which we found burnt out on the evening of the shooting was a significant part of the jigsaw. Checks on the vehicle soon established it had been stolen the year before and was also running on cloned plates.
“As part of our discussions about the case, one of the investigation team recalled a road rage incident that had happened on St Mary’s Gate in November 2019 and had involved a similar vehicle. Naturally, we thought it was worth revisiting.
“It turned out that footage had been taken of this incident, but members of the public had been threatened by the driver to delete the footage. We managed to retrieve the film – and who was driving that car? It was Stephen Dunford.
“There was also a second vehicle linked to the Arbourthorne incident, a white Audi, which the victim had seen Dunford driving the day before he was shot.
“This Audi was recorded on CCTV at the scene of the burnt-out Ford Focus.
“Enquiries revealed Dunford had hired this car in his mum’s name earlier that week, and also placed him in that vehicle that night. Additional forensic work supported this.”
Further enquiries, including an identity parade, meant Dunford was quickly charged and remanded.
However, the incriminating evidence did not stop there: while in prison, Dunford performed a rap whilst making a phone call to a friend.
The rap contained several lyrics which were directly connected to his actions on 12 January, including the line ‘youth caught a stray,’ which describes a child being hit by a bullet.
Dunford also rapped about turning ‘a man’s hoodie, into a vest top,’ which makes reference to a shot fired through the hood of a second teenager’s jacket during the same incident.
The rap was recorded and after being shared on social media, was flagged to officers and seized.
Dunford, of Fellbrigg Road, was charged with attempted murder and possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life. After a six-week trial, at Sheffield Crown Court, he was found guilty of both charges on 21 September.
He was also found guilty of an additional count of possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life in connection to a firearms discharge on 10 January on Northcote Avenue.
At the same trial, Brandon Bailey, 26, of Manor Park Way, was also found guilty of conspiracy to possess a firearm with intent to endanger life. He had previously pleaded guilty to possession of criminal property on 27 August.
Bailey’s DNA was found on a firearm recovered in searches carried out as part of the wider investigation.
Today, Bailey was sentenced to 10 and a half years in prison.
He was described by the judge as “a sycophantic supplicant within Dunford’s gang”.
A third man, Devon Gregory, 23, of Heeley Green, who was charged with conspiracy to possess a firearm with intent to endanger life, was found not guilty and acquitted of all charges.
DCI Brice added: “It is worth also mentioning the impact this incident has had on the wider community. As you will see from CCTV footage released today, this was a shocking event to happen on the streets of a regular Sheffield suburb, where families live, where hard-working people live.
“They should not have to put up with this type of criminality. I hope they share some relief that this man is behind bars and will be for a considerable amount of time.
“I would like to take this opportunity to remind people that if they have information about armed criminality or violence where they live, please talk to us, please share information with us. You can truly make a difference to an investigation like this.”
L- R: Stephen Dunford & Brandon Bailey