Thursday 17 April 2014

Thirteen hour siege ends as armed man surrenders

Gardai at house where an incident with a firearm took place on the Sligo to Strandhill road in Sligo, yesterday.
Photo: James Connolly / PicSell8
Gardai at house where an incident with a firearm took place on the Sligo to Strandhill road in Sligo

Shots were fired in the shadows of Knocknarea Mountain early today at gardai who responded to an emergency alert.

Nobody was injured but the incident led to a 13-hour siege as armed gardai surrounded a bungalow and a negotiation team was on standby.

It ended when a 30-year-old man walked out the back door to armed gardai with his hands up.

A Garda spokesperson said: “There were negotiations and when he agreed to surrender he was told to leave the single barrel shotgun inside the house and come out with his arms raised. He was faced by a number of armed officers when he exited the building.”

A garda helicopter flew overhead during daylight hours and an ambulance and the fire services were also there.

Up to 40 neighbours, including several children, were evacuated from eight nearby houses as gardai sealed the scene off.

The alert was raised about 12.30 a.m when neighbours heard shots in a house at Scardenmore, on the Strandhill Road about five kilometres from Sligo town.

A Garda statement said neighbours alerted them to “suspicious activity.” But a spokesperson agreed: “They heard noises and they could have sounded like gunfire.”

On arrival at the scene at Scardenmore, about four kilometres from Sligo town on the Strandhill Road with Knocknarea towering overhead, uniformed Gardai noticed damage to a patio door. They then observed a male in his 30's in the house carrying a firearm.

Gardai said: “The male discharged the firearm in the direction of the Gardai. One shot hit the patrol car on the passenger side.”When the armed regional response unit arrived the man discharged further shots towards them.

The gardai returned fire. Nobody was injured.

When the siege ended shortly after 1.30 pm yesterday, the arrested man was taken into custody at Sligo Garda station,

Armed gardai at the scene carried high-powered weapons including Heckler and Koch MP7 machine guns.

Neighbours woke up to see them putting on bullet-proof vests and loading their guns. Initially, The told neighbours they were on a training exercise,

A Garda spokesperson said: “There would have been a serious attempt to keep the neighbours calm. The preservation jof life was the utmost priority.”

For several hours there wasn’t a sound from inside the house as gardai continued to maintain their siege.

There were trained Garda siege negotiators at the scene. For hours the conversation was one-way as the gunman listened but didn’t respond.

For many hours gardai were attempting to contact the man’s parents who were in Dublin at Leopardstown Races.

One woman with four children who was evacuated said: “We didn’t know what was happening. When we saw all the blue lights at first we thought it might be a traffic accident.

“But we realised what was happening when they eventually told us there was an armed man in the area.”

Most of the evacuated families moved to stay with relatives and friends.

Gardai sealed off the road for two kilometres and there were traffic diversions.

People who were allowed to remain in their homes inside the cordon were told if they left their homes to go outside the cordon they wouldn’t be allowed back until the end of the siege.

Retired Sligo town clerk John MacNabola, one of those trapped in his home inside the cordon, said: “We’re relying on discovering what is happening by phoning other neighbours inside the cordon.

“There is a very large garda presence and they include officers with armed response unit on their clothes.

“People were initially a bit frightened at first but as the day progressed things seemed to settle down.”

Paddy Clancy       

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