Tuesday 24 October 2017

'He came at us with fists spinning' - Man hit M50 toll, hijacked car, and knocked down taxi driver before dangerous garda chase

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Sonya McLean

A MAN has been jailed for four years after he walked along the M50 before hi-jacking a car at Dublin Airport and getting involved in a dangerous car chase with gardaí.

Petrica Lucaci (26), who is originally from Romania, had a minor accident at the toll booth on M50 before he abandoned his car and walked for a number of hours to Dublin Airport.

He then knocked down a taxi-driver after driving onto a pedestrian median while trying to escape in the BMW he had just hi-jacked. Lucaci had minutes earlier tried to take a car from another man whose five and 12-year old children were sitting in the back seat.

During the subsequent chase with both airport police and gardaí, Lucaci broke two sets of red lights and drove against two lanes of traffic at the dual carriage on the Naul Road. He then drove the wrong way around the Ballymun Road Roundabout, narrowly missing an articulated truck.

He ultimately crashed while trying to perform a U-turn to get back onto the dual carriageway and narrowly missed a Dublin Bus.

Lucaci was ultimately arrested after ten gardaí attempted to restrain him, while he came at them with “fists spinning”. He struck three gardaí during the struggle, with one garda being left with a cut behind his ear. He later assaulted two security officers while being treated in Beaumont Hospital.

Lucaci of Lower Dominick Street, Dublin pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to unlawful seizure of a vehicle, attempted unlawful seizure of a vehicle, assaulting Kevin O'Brien causing him harm, assault of Garda Adrian McHugh, assaulting two security officers at Beaumont Hospital, two charges of endangerment and dangerous driving on October 7, 2014.

He has no previous convictions in Ireland or Romania and had €2,000 in court as a token of his remorse. Lucaci told gardaí in interview that he wanted to take a car to see what it felt like to be rich.

“I am a good guy, you can ask people,” Lucaci said before he told gardaí “of course I knew it was wrong, you would be crazy not to know it was wrong”.

Judge Terrence O'Sullivan sentenced Lucaci to five years with the final year suspended. He banned him from driving for six years and ordered that he undergo anger management, under the supervision of the Probation Service, when released from prison

The judge said Lucaci had carried out his acts of destructions for no apparent reason. “He had not taken any intoxicant nor was there any triggering row,” he said before he said Lucaci was in a state of “hyper-aggression” and it took ten gardaí and pepper spray to “quell him”.

He noted the physical and psychological impact on the various victims, having read victim impact statements, including the “psychological effect” it had on the five year old girl.

“I have heard of cases were the red mists descended but he engaged in very aggressive behaviour and he at no stage seemed to come out of the state of mind he was in,” Judge O'Sullivan said.

Michael Bowman SC, defending, said Lucaci was psychologically assessed but found to be mentally stable. His younger brother had died suddenly from cancer, possibly arising out of the fallout from the nearby Chernobyl disaster and his wife was being treated in an Italian hospital at the time for TB.

Lucaci felt under financial pressure to ensure his wife got the appropriate medical treatment and felt he would lose her too if he didn't get enough money to pay for her medication.

A psychological report suggested he felt “overwhelmed” on the day and “had suppressed issues in terms of dealing with his grief”.

Garda Garvan Lennon told Sinead McMullan BL, prosecuting, that Lucaci had thrown tied together steel capped boots at Joe Walsh's Mercedes and demanded that he get out of the car. He struck the driver's window forcibly three times but it didn't smash.

He then tried to open the rear door of the car where the man's five year old daughter was sitting. He continued to hold onto the car until he couldn't any longer when the driver picked up speed.

Minutes later Lucaci viciously attacked Kevin O'Brien after he demanded that he hand over his car keys. He punched and kicked the man and continued the assault after he got the keys. He initially had trouble starting the car and other motorists tried to block him in but he managed to drive off.

He knocked over a taxi driver who was coming to the assistance of Mr O'Brien. The man rolled on to the bonnet of the BMW but was not badly injured.

Gda Lennon said it later took ten gardaí to restrain Lucaci having used pepper spray on him. He said the man got out of the passenger side of the car “spinning his fists” and assaulted three gardaí before he was handcuffed.

“He was totally non-responsive as if he was in a trance but there no smell of alcohol,” Gda Lennon said before he described Lucaci's behaviour as unusual. He was taken in a garda van to Beaumont Hospital for treatment where he later assaulted two security officers who were minding him with gardaí.

Mr Bowman said it was a bizarre incident and “a deeply distressing and terrible experience for those who encountered him on the day”.

He said his client struggled to understand his own actions. “For whatever reason a cloud descended on him and he engaged in both inappropriate and criminal behaviour in the extreme,” counsel added.

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