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Sergeant Eamonn Griffin.
Ballybofey

Unarmed garda tells of moment bullets zipped by his head as gunman fired shots

Sergeant Eamon Griffin has 40 years experience in An Garda Síochána and is based at Ballybofey Garda Station.

A GARDA HAS told of the moment a gunman with a high-powered hunting rifle shot at him and how he heard the bullet zip by his head. 

Sergeant Eamonn Griffin has 40 years experience in An Garda Síochána and is based at Ballybofey Garda Station.

On 22 February 2020, he and his colleagues faced down a drink-and-drug-fuelled gunman as he paraded through the town of Glenties firing his gun.

Stephen Dowling, 25, of Burren Road in Co Carlow was jailed for eight years for the incident. He pleaded guilty to five charges of criminal damage and six charges of having possession of a weapon including a rifle and a hunting knife with intent to endanger life or cause damage to property

Griffin – along with colleagues – confronted Dowling, while unarmed. Meanwhile, two other armed detectives were rushing, by road, to attend the scene. 

There was no armed cover nearby so it was down to the uniformed gardaí to contain the attacker until they arrived.  

A garda car was struck by bullets fired by Dowling as the gardaí themselves became targets. 

The incident was brought to a halt when the two armed detectives, Enda Jennings and Darren Carter, arrived and confronted the gunman. 

Griffin recalled the horrific incident at this year’s Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) conference which was held in Westport, Co Mayo.

“Of course, you always think about it. It comes up, especially in occasions like this when it’s talked about, you think about it more then. Yes, you would think about throughout the year, you go through a traumatic experience and you would think about it,” he said.

As unarmed gardaí attempted to distract the gunman away from the public, he fired at them.

“Of course, you think about what could have happened,” Griffen said. “Lots of things could have happened. I could have lost my life.

One of my colleagues could have lost their lives.

“That bullet came within inches. I could actually hear the bullet going by my ear. The colleague standing beside me could have lost his life or one of my other Garda colleagues could have lost their lives.

“Somebody in a house could have lost their lives. That man driving down the street, could have lost his life, but thankfully, none of that happened,” he added.

garda-officers-outside-mallow-district-court-in-co-cork-members-of-the-garda-representative-association-gra-have-threatened-to-withdraw-their-labour-if-the-dispute-between-the-garda-commissioner-d There was no specialist armed gardaí nearby to assist. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

The Sergeant was joined on the night of the incident by Garda Louis Brown, Garda Edward Cassidy, Garda Kieran Cassidy, Garda Declan McBride and Garda Ronan Steede.

Griffin played down the heroic actions of the night, saying it took some time for the feelings about the event to arrive. 

“You feel fear at the time but then afterwards, when it’s over, that’s when it really kicks in.

“For that night, my main objective was to apprehend this person, no matter what the cost because he was of severe danger to everybody.

“You do have clarity of thought and you’re able to make decisions clearly. And thankfully it worked out,” he added. 

Griffin said, at that moment, as the gunman was on his marauding journey through the town, he was focused on bringing the incident to an end rather than the threat to himself. 

“I would say it would have hit me about two days later. Your body’s been pumped full of adrenaline and stuff like that. It takes a while for that to go out of your body. When that does go out of your body, it’s then you have time to reflect on it.

“You’d have sort of constant thoughts about it, your sleep’s affected, everything’s affected, your appetite is affected. It sort of takes over your life in a way,” he added. 

Griffin said that he has received help from the garda welfare system and has spoken to experts to deal with the aftermath.  

“It takes a long time to get it out of your system and some people say like, ‘Does it ever go out of your system really?’

You’d have flashbacks and that, but you have to manage it.

“You can’t let it dominate your life,” he added. 

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