Man who played ‘Russian roulette’ with friend in joint suicide bid receives suspended jail term
A man with a “death wish” who played Russian roulette with a friend in an attempted joint suicide has received a suspended sentence at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.
Jason O’Keeffe (44) made a pact to take his life with a friend at a Clonliffe Road flat after taking a cocktail of drugs and alcohol. He had lost his long term partner to suicide the previous year and the friend had lost a child to meningitis.
Garda Susan Kavanagh said that when she and colleagues arrived at the scene after a call about a disturbance, she heard male voices shouting inside the flat and references to shooting “all of us.”
She called for armed backup when two men, who had moments later confronted her and colleagues with knives, reappeared and pointed laser beams from what looked like real rifles in their direction.
O’Keeffe, of Ballybough Road, pleaded guilty to producing a knife and possessing a realistic imitation firearm at Clonliffe Road on November 28, 2010. He has 26 previous convictions, including robbery and minor assaults.
Gda Kavanagh told Tony McGillicuddy BL, prosecuting, that she initially saw O’Keeffe and the other man, who has since taken his own life, wearing black hoodies and baseball hats in the flat’s front landing.
The men ran outside and confronted gardai aggressively with the knives, before retreating into the flat and reappearing holding what looked like genuine scoped rifles.
When the armed unit arrived, O’Keeffe’s now deceased friend yelled from inside the flat that they had hostages.
A garda negotiator sought to speak to the flat occupants and a male voice called out that he had a grenade and pipe bombs.
Gda Kavanagh told Mr McGillicuddy that gardai next saw thick smoke coming from a window in the premises. She said she found out later that some candles had started a fire by accident.
Gardai shouted up to the two men to jump out the broken window once the blaze flared up. O’Keeffe, who was identified by officers when he leaped from the building onto a skip below, shouted: “Don’t shoot, I don’t have a gun. Your man in there has taken the top off a grenade.”
His friend continued shouting from inside the building that hostages would be shot.
Gda Kavanagh said that eventually O’Keeffe, his friend and a homeless man, who had been an innocent bystander invited inside to get out of the snow, were taken to hospital.
O’Keeffe told her on the way to hospital that his friend had bought the replica guns believing they were real and that both men had had a death wish.
He described taking crack cocaine, alcohol and antipsychotic drugs before he and the friend decided to play a Russian Roulette “I cut you, you cut me, I stab you, you stab me” game using knives and razor blades.
Gda Kavanagh said O’Keefffe, who had a number of self inflicted cuts on his throat, asked her in the car why gardai hadn’t opened fire. “It would have been easier if you shot me,” he said.
Later on during garda interview, O’Keeffe admitted that emotions, drink and drugs had got the better on him on the night and that he hadn’t wanted to kill himself.
Gda Kavanagh agreed with Sean Guerin SC, defending, that the two men had pointed fake guns at her and colleagues to provoke a reaction.
She agreed that a colleague who had accompanied O’Keeffe’s friend to the hospital noted on paper that this man expressed he’d wanted to be shot.
She further agreed that the friend had since died, as had the homeless man who’d been invited in for shelter.
She said she didn’t expect to see O’Keeffe in trouble with gardai again.
Mr Guerin submitted to Judge Mary Ellen Ring that his client was attending a drug awareness course and taking steps to deal with his addiction problems.
The judge commented that there was a phrase “suicide by cop” but in this case “fortunately, albeit under threat, the gardai acted professionally”. She added that they were to be commended for their conduct.
She imposed a two and a half year suspended sentence.