A detective garda told Dundalk Circuit Court last week that he fired a single warning shot as he was believed that a car that had rammed his patrol car was going to be driven at him and he was in fear of “being killed or seriously injured”.
The court heard Padraig O’Riordan - who had an address at the time at Point Road, Bellurgan, Dundalk waved a blanks-firing handgun at a different garda who approached him during the events that followed.
The 28 year old has been sentenced to a total of five years - after pleading guilty to 11 charges - including endangerment, dangerous driving, a firearms offence and burglary
Det. Garda Andrew Barron told the court last Thursday that the stolen BMW the accused was driving on the 18th of January 2011 with “mismatching alloys” was identified on CCTV footage following burglaries at The Sportsmans pub and restaurant and at Templetown Transport, the day before.
He said he was on patrol with Sgt. Darren Kirwan when they first came across the BMW parked in the middle of the road at Ballinteskin. It then drove off at high speed on the Omeath/Newry Road.
Det. Garda Barron told how they activated the blue lights on the patrol car and the accused made a sharp turn into drive of a house in Ballyoonan.
He said the patrol car was one or two metres behind, when it reversed at it and rammed it twice.
The court heard Sgt. Kirwan approached the BMW and saw the accused reach down to his right and after shouting “Gardai, Gardai” he struck the driver’s window with his baton, as he thought he was reaching for a weapon.
The BMW reversed at him and collided with the patrol car a third time.
Garda Barron told how he was trapped between the patrol car and a wall as the BMW revved its engine loudly while pointed in his direction.
He said he fired a single warning shot from his hand gun as he feared he was going to be killed or seriously injured if the defndant ‘had got through the gap’.
The BMW collided with the wall and after ‘manoeuvring itself’ it drove off.
The court heard that the patrol car was extensively damange to the fornt. The steering was pulling to the side and it couldn’t accelerate to its’ full capacity.
The passenger was apprehended and shouted the name of the defendant as the person who was in the BMW, which had driven off towards Omeath.
However, it performed a u-turn and drove towards Carlingford when it came across another patrol car. The court was told the accused appeared to lose control of the extensively damaged BMW, which ended up facing towards Slieve Foy forest park before driving off again.
Gardai who were aware from the garda radio that the accused was in possession of a firearm continued to follow him at a safe distance. Prosecutor Kevin Segrave said on numerous occasions the car crossed over onto the incorrect side of the road with “numerous sparks and pieces of debris failling from the car as it drove”.
The court heard at one point - when two patrol cars tried to block the accused in, and a garda approached him - he had waved a handgun at the officer although it was accepted he had not pointed or fired it.
The court was told the BMW did not slow down as it turned into and drove through Carlingford and an ambulance driver was forced to take evasive action to avoid a collision on the Dundalk road.
At Irishgrange the car mounted a ditch and attempt was made to block it in, one garda who approached the driver’s door continually identified himself as ‘Armed gardai’ while his colleague who had entered via the passenger door was thrown out backwards when the car began to move forward with the wheel narrowly missing the garda.
Both returned to the patrol car and resumed following the BMW. A number of patrol cars joined the pursuit at Bush Cross. The court was told that at Rath the car was driven directly at the patrol car and made no effort to avoid it. The garda driver had to serve to avoid the BMW which pulled out onto the Carlingford/Dundalk road making no effort to stop at the stop sign.
The court heard the officers who were following the accused estimated that he was driving at between 120 and 140kph as the patrol cars were having problems keeping up.
At Annaloughan the BMW endedup travelling on three wheels as a tyre came off its rim and “a lot of sparks were coming off the car at this point”. In Rockmarshall the defendant narrowly avoided a collision with two cars and parts of the body of the BMW were seen to break off. In Bellurgan it spun 180 degrees and came to halt colliding with a wall at the local national school.
The defendant was arrested under Section 30 of the Offences Against the State Act for the unlawful possession of a firearm at Ballyoonan.
The court heard that scene in Omeath and the BMW were preserved for technical examination and the pistol - which was designed to fire blanks, was recovered two days later in a search along the route driven by the accused.
The court was told that Padraig O’Riordan had nine previous convictions. Senior Defence Counsel Brendan Grehan stressed that his client had never pointed or fired the weapon and had discarded it some distance from where he was apprehended.
He added the events followed ‘a lost weekend’ where a lot of drugs and drink had been taken and said he had been instructed by his client to offer a personal apology to Garda Barron and his colleagues “for his actions on the night” to which the garda replied “It’s noted”.
The Defence barrister added that his client was compliant while in custody and the burglaries had occured at commercial premises which would not have been occupied when they were broken into.
The court heard the accused left school at the age of 14 with basic literacy skills and has worked as a plasterer in the past.
Judge Michael O’Shea noted the defendant had full co-operated with th garda investigation, had expressed remorse, is now attending counselling and has ‘trustee’ status in Cloverhill prison. He added he accepted that the accused did not point or aim the gun at the Garda.
However, he said the officer had no way of knowing that it only fired blanks. He said the defendant was aware that the guards were in pursuit of him and at all times he was aware it was a garda car and guards were in the car. He said he subjected them to a terrifyign and horrificlordeal and thankfully the gardai were not injured.
Judge O’Shea said the defendant’s ‘aggressiveness was in the extreme’ and with the manner of his dangerous drivign he did not care one bit about public safety.
He imposed concurrent sentences totalling five years along with a six year driving ban all of which were backdated to the date of the defendant’s arrest, when he went into custody.