POLICE were last night holding two men after a shooting in a quiet Durham town.
The men were being quizzed after two violent clashes on Saturday night which officers believe are linked.
A shotgun has also been recovered and is being examined.
The first stand-off, at Humber Hill in Stanley, is believed to have involved several people in a number of vehicles, including the drivers of a silver Mercedes E320 CDi and a black Mitsubishi L200.
Terrified residents living near the scene heard several shots ring out shortly after 6pm.
But it is not believed there were any casualties as a result of the shooting.
The Mercedes and the Mitsubishi 4x4 then left the scene and a second confrontation took place about half an hour later on the A691 in Durham city.
At least one shot was fired at the roundabout near County Hall, and the two cars are believed to have crashed.
As the drama unfolded the 4x4 left the road and overturned onto a grassy area at the side of the roundabout.
The 40-year-old driver, from Belmont, Durham, was arrested inside his mangled car.
He suffered a suspected broken arm as a result of the smash and was taken to the University Hospital of North Durham for treatment under armed guard.
Late on Saturday night he was discharged and taken into police custody.
The 37-year-old driver of the Mercedes, who is from Stanley, was arrested shortly afterwards by uniformed officers in Fieldhouse Lane, on the road from Durham towards Sacriston.
Both men were last night being held on suspicion of attempted murder.
Shocked residents living near the scene in Stanley said they had heard loud bangs but put the noises down to a car exhaust backfiring.
Pauline Kelly, 75, said: “I heard a few bangs, but I didn’t look out, I tend to keep myself to myself. Then we heard the police helicopter and saw that they had cordoned off the road.
“When I saw the people in white suits at the scene I knew something big must have happened.”
The pensioner added: “It is really worrying that this has happened so close to my home.
“I was frightened there might be someone who had escaped and who would be trying people’s doors looking for somewhere to hide.”
Mrs Kelly’s daughter Christine, 52, said the area around their terraced house was normally very quiet, but fears over gun crime were growing in the town. “There seem to have been a lot of attacks in Stanley this year, it is getting worse and worse,” she said. “I’m just glad no-one was injured.”
Police are keeping an open mind as to whether anyone else was involved in the showdown and spent the weekend combing the scenes for evidence. On Saturday night, the A691 near County Hall was closed off to traffic as police experts conducted a search of the area.
Yesterday, the scene at Humber Hill in Stanley was also being scoured for clues by sniffer dogs and search teams.
Detective superintendent Andy Reddick, who is leading the investigation, said that although a motive for the shooting had not yet been established, police believe the incident was an isolated one. It is not thought to be linked to criminal gangs.
“This sort of incident is very unusual for County Durham and our inquiries so far suggest it was not connected to drugs or organised crime,” said Dept Supt Reddick. “I would urge anyone who saw these two vehicles either on Humber Hill, on the road by County Hall, or at any point in between to contact us.
“I am hoping to establish which route the drivers took from Stanley to Durham and any information the public could provide would be extremely useful.”
Anyone with information should contact police on 0345 606-0365 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.