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Garda murder probe: 15 shots fired in 'altercation' that led to Detective Colm Horkan's death

  • Deceased named as Detective Garda Colm Horkan
  • Garda struck several times in 'altercation'

  • Policing Authority describes the killing as 'a wilful denial of the right to life'

  • First Garda to die in the line of duty since 2015
  • 'A heart wrenching reminder of how much we owe our gardai' - Taoiseach

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Forensic officers at the scene on Main Street in Castlerea, Co Roscommon this morning. Photo: Mark Condren

Forensic officers at the scene on Main Street in Castlerea, Co Roscommon this morning. Photo: Mark Condren

Forensic officers at the scene on Main Street in Castlerea, Co Roscommon this morning. Photo: Mark Condren

A MURDER investigation is underway after a member of An Garda Síochána was shot dead while on duty in Co Roscommon.

He has been named as Detective Garda Colm Horkan (49), who worked in the force for 24 years.

It is understood that 15 shots were fired, several of which struck Mr Horkan.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said this afternoon that an “altercation” led to his death.

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Detective Garda Colm Horkan

Detective Garda Colm Horkan

Detective Garda Colm Horkan

Speaking to reporters in Castlerea today, he said that a full investigation is underway to what he described as a "random act".

"As we know in this time, this was in effect a conversation between Detective Garda Horkan and a member of the public," he said.

“There was then an altercation during which then the service pistol which Garda Horkan was carrying was then used against him and he was shot and fatally wounded.

“He received very prompt and professional medical attention but to no avail and died from his injuries."

He said that Detective Horkan’s death is an “attack upon society.”

“I can certainly say at this moment in time there is no sense of a bigger picture, organised crime or subversive.

“What we have here is a random act, a violent act, that led to the death of Detective Garda Horkan, so it is tragic and it is an attack upon us all.

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“It is correct to say that it an attack upon society,” he added.

He said that all members of An Garda Siochana are mourning Detective Hourkan’s death.

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All roads into Castlerea were closed following the shooting as the town went into lockdown and diversions were put in place. Photo: Mark Condren

All roads into Castlerea were closed following the shooting as the town went into lockdown and diversions were put in place. Photo: Mark Condren

All roads into Castlerea were closed following the shooting as the town went into lockdown and diversions were put in place. Photo: Mark Condren

“We are all shocked and saddened At the loss of our colleague,” he said.

“Although we feel this loss very severely our thoughts are with his family and the loss they must now bear.”

Commissioner Drew Harris appealed to the public to help with the investigation as there is a video of the attack circulating social media.

He urged anyone who was in Castlerea Town Centre last night 11pm-12.30am to come forward if they have information.

A man, aged in his 40s, was arrested at the scene and remains detained at Castlerea Garda Station under Section 30 of the Offences Against the State Act 1939.

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Gardai at the scene of the shooting in Castlerea, Co Roscommon. Photo: Mark Condren

Gardai at the scene of the shooting in Castlerea, Co Roscommon. Photo: Mark Condren

Gardai at the scene of the shooting in Castlerea, Co Roscommon. Photo: Mark Condren

In a statement this morning, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris expressed his sympathies with his family, friends and colleagues.

"I am deeply saddened by the death of my colleague Detective Garda Colm Horkan.

"My thoughts, and the thoughts of all personnel in An Garda Síochána, are with the family, friends and colleagues of Detective Garda Colm Horkan at Castlerea Garda Station and the Detective Unit he served in.

"Colm served the communities he worked in with distinction and pride during his 24 years as a member of An Garda Síochána.

"Detective Garda Colm Horkan is the 89th member of An Garda Síochána killed in the line of duty. Today is a terrible reminder of the significant sacrifices, including the ultimate sacrifice, that Gardaí make to keep people safe."

The Policing Authority has described the killing as "a willful denial of the right to life, is an attack on the essence and the foundations of our democracy".

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has praised Detective Horkan for the "courage" and "sacrifice" he showed during his more than two decades serving as member An Garda Siochana.

Speaking on the steps of Government Building, Mr Varadkar said he has spoken to the Garda Commissioner Drew Harris Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan about the incident and also offered his condolence and support to Mr Horkan’s family.

"Colm gave his life protecting the community he had served with distinction and courage during his 24 years as a member of An Garda Siochana," he said.

"His story is the same as the thousands of men and women who wear the uniform. A story of courage, sacrifice and service. Our gardaí are our guardians of the peace and defenders of the rule of law. They are role models.

"This tragedy is a heart wrenching reminder of how much we owe our gardai for the work they do all over the country. They protect and serve our citizens, our communities and our country. Every day putting themselves on the frontline of crime prevention on behalf all of us," he added.

The shooting occurred on the Main Street in Castlerea. It is believed the officer was responding to a call about an altercation and arrived at the scene on his own. There was a struggle and shots were discharged.

Medics who were nearby tried in vain to save him and he was pronounced dead at the scene.

The suspect was arrested by other officers who arrived as back up.

A Garda spokesman said: "It is with deepest sadness An Garda Síochána confirms the death of our colleague, resulting from fatal gunshot wounds received during an incident in Castlerea shortly before midnight on Wednesday 17th June 2020.

"Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam."

It is rare for a Garda to be killed in the line of duty. The last tragic incident was in 2015 when Garda Tony Golden was shot in Omeath, Co Louth. Garda Golden was the 88th member of the force to die on duty since the organisations foundation.

The town of Castlerea was put into an effective lockdown overnight, with Main Street and St Patrick’s Street, the two main arteries into the town, completely blocked off by gardaí.

A blue forensic screen could be seen from one of the approach roads, positioned at the central junction in the town.

Members of the Garda Technical Bureau were working at the scene from the very early hours of this morning.

Members of the Garda Armed Response unit and other garda vehicles could be seen travelling to and from the garda station in the town, which is the headquarters for the garda district.

With the town asleep, some lights came on in houses as the alarm was raised around 2.30am.

Gardaí blocked off the centre of the town at the three junctions; on St Patrick’s St, on Henry Byrne Road and Ballindrimley Road.

Most cars were turned away but some were allowed pass.

In a statement Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan expressed his shock and sadness.

"I want to express my heartfelt sympathy to the parents and family of the brave Garda who died doing his duty serving his community and to the wider family of An Garda Siochana who will be heartbroken.

"Our gardai work to keep Ireland safe at all times and this is a very difficult day for all of them and their families," he said.

President of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) Antoinette Cunningham said she was "devastated".

She offered deepest sympathies to the officer’s family and colleagues on "a sad sad day for An Garda Síochána".

Fr John McManus, parish priest in Castlerea, said that he received a call from the local garda station at around midnight to attend the scene and offer the deceased garda a final blessing.

"Sadly, like many of my own colleagues, you're never sure what the next phone call may be. Often when you do hear a call from the garda station you are going out to something very tragic. Little did I know it was one of their own colleagues last night," he said on RTÉ Radio One Morning Ireland.

"Always and forever they are so professional on the scene in their guidance and direction, and I thought so poignantly last night in the stillness and silence and shock of the incident that they were there praying with me for their colleague."

This incident comes almost 40 years since Henry Byrne and John Morley, two members of An Garda Síochána, were shot dead while attending the scene of a bank robbery in Castlerea.

Fr McManus said that the community has particularly felt the blow of the now three losses because they are "very much a part of the community" and widely respected in the Roscommon town.

"Our prayers and thoughts are very much with his family, relatives and his colleagues here in Castlerea and gardaí everywhere," he said.

Hundreds of people gathered on the main street in the town centre in Castlerea this evening for a vigil for Detective Garda Horkan.

A small green marquee was set up in the Fairgreen in the Main Street and tributes were led by local Fianna Fáil Councillor Paschal Fitzmaurice and Fr McManus.

Heavy rain lashed down as the small town mourned the passing of the garda.

"The terrible sad occasion that happened here last night is a tragedy that I suppose we will never, ever forget," said Cllr Fitzmaurice.

District Officer Supt Goretti Sheridan also paid tributes to the garda "friend and colleague".

"I want to thank everyone for coming this evening, it means a lot to us.

"We’re obviously devastated at the death of our friend and colleague Colm, we appreciate your support," she said.

Loughlynn native Mildred Byrne was one of the many locals who attended the vigil.

She recounted the story 40 years ago on July 7, whenDetective Morley and Garda Byrne were shot in Ballaghadereen, where she was shopping at the time. She remembered she arrived at the scene and said a prayer into the ear of Garda Byrne.

"All you could see was the car with the windscreen smashed, two guards that I knew very well, I used to play badminton with them, Henry Byrne lying on the road.

"My first reaction was to go on my knees and to say the Act of Contrition into his ear, and when you think about it afterwards, you’d think we’d be afraid.

"But we weren’t, because he was still warm," she recounted tearfully.

She said that today’s events have been a harsh reminder of the past.

"When I heard the news, I was back in that same place, wanting to run and help, but you can’t.

"It brought everything back. I will never forget Henry Byrne lying on the road for as long as I live."

Local TD Denis Naughten said he is "absolutely shocked and saddened" to hear of the tragedy.

"This is devastating news for his family, the dedicated team of gardai in Castlerea and the community. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time," he said.

Sligo Leitrim TD Frank Feighan, originally from Boyle in Co Roscommon, also paid his sympathies.

"It’s awful news to be hearing from Castlerea. Thoughts and prayers to his family and loved ones. Also his colleagues and friends in Garda Siochana," he tweeted.

Roscommon MEP Luke 'Ming' Flanagan said: "Everyone is stunned by the news from Castlerea last night. May he rest in peace. Such a sad day."

Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald also expressed her sympathy.

"Sympathies and prayers with family, friends and an Garda Siochána colleagues of the Garda Officer killed last night. A shocking, senseless loss," she said

Former local councillor and Castlerea resident Danny Burke said that last night's events brought back the harsh memories of two Castlerea stationed gardaí being shot on July 7 in 1980 in Ballaghaderren.

"I haven’t felt as said since 1980, I’ll be honest with you.

"Det Garda Morley and Garda Henry Byrne set up the guard of honour for my mother, who died on July 4.

"On July 7, we heard the very sad news that they had died.

"These men are out there protecting us and it’s a very sad thing that this is how they are rewarded."

He also said that he knew Detective Garda Colm Horkan personally.

"He was well known, well liked. He always dealt with matters with the most dignified manner. He was always very approachable and I had a great friendship with him over the years through the football.

"This is an awful day for Castlerea."


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