Killing sparks ‘major tension’ as family question use of force
The family of a man shot dead by gardaí after he made threats with a knife have questioned why lethal force was used.
George Nkencho (27) was shot in the garden of his home in west Dublin at around 12.35pm and was later pronounced dead in hospital.
The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) is investigating the fatal shooting at Manorfields Drive, close to Hartstown.
A cousin of the deceased man, Odi Anynwu, said Mr Nkencho had battled mental health problems and questioned why non-lethal methods had not been used effectively.
Last night, senior sources said the decision by an officer from the Armed Support Unit (ASU) to fire shots was because the highly trained garda believed there was an “imminent threat to life”.
“He had been pepper sprayed and tasered but when this did not work, the use of lethal force became necessary. There were concerns that he could kill someone,” a senior source said.
It is understood the situation became critical when Mr Nkencho allegedly “lunged” at one of the ASU officers with a large knife.
There were distressing scenes in the aftermath of the incident as Mr Nkencho’s mother tried to go through the Garda cordon to get to her house. She shouted and cried aloud as she was held back by relatives and gardaí.
The cousin of Mr Nkencho told the Irish Independent he had suffered from mental illness in the past. She questioned why non-lethal methods were not used effectively.
“That was the option I think, but to shoot somebody in front of his house is ridiculous,” she said.
“They shot an innocent boy with mental issues.”
She said: “His siblings heard a racket from the gardaí from upstairs and they ran downstairs, and when they got down they saw their big brother covered in blood on the floor.”
It is known five shots were fired at Mr Nkencho, four first in quick succession and then a fifth shortly afterwards.
The 27-year-old was known to local gardaí due to issues caused by his mental health difficulties and was arrested at his home last January under the Mental Health Act after he was allegedly violent to a number of gardaí who had responded to an emergency call.
Gardaí are “very conscious” of the “major tension” that has been caused in the community after Mr Nkencho was shot dead and have put in place a special policing plan.
Senior sources said there are “big concerns” about protests taking place.
“Engagement with the communities is the first step here... one of the main aims of the policing plan is to try and ensure that things don’t flare up into violence,” the source explained.
The incident began when gardaí earlier received reports of a public order incident involving a male armed with a knife at Hartstown shopping centre.
A staff member at Eurospar received facial injuries and another incident was reported at the nearby post office.
“Uniformed, unarmed gardaí responded to the scene and observed a male in possession of a knife. The male continued to threaten members of the public and unarmed gardaí with the knife,” said a statement from the Garda press office.
An eyewitness told the Irish Independent how she saw a team of gardaí, who had surrounded the suspect, walking along the road with him like a contained moving cordon.
“The gardaí that were around him were not armed and they were keeping a safe distance from him and telling him to stop and get down,” she said.
“I could not see if the man was armed because of the number of gardaí around him. Then he started bouncing on his feet…
“They moved with him to the road outside his house and then the armed gardaí drove in and then I heard the shots, four or five of them,” she added.
Gardaí said a graduated policing response, with the use of less-than-lethal force options, was initially administered in an effort to resolve the incident. This included the use of pepper spray and a Taser.
“The less-than-lethal use of force options were unsuccessful and a number of shots were discharged from an official Garda firearm at approximately 12.35pm,” the Garda statement said.
Last night both GSOC and An Garda Síochána made appeals for witnesses or for anyone with information to come forward as investigations are ongoing.