A MAN shot himself dead last night after opening fire on two unarmed garda officers when his van was stopped as part of a routine patrol.
The Irish Independent has learned that up to seven shots were discharged from two guns during the harrowing incident at Newport, Co Tipperary.
The 45-year-old man, who is understood to be from Limerick city, was pronounced dead at the scene shortly before 8pm last night.
Two garda officers -- a female sergeant and a male garda officer -- narrowly escaped with their lives during the gun attack when they had to take cover behind their garda vehicle as the motorist opened fire on them with a rifle after they had just wrested a shotgun from him.
The drama unfolded in the north Tipperary village after gardai received a call about a motorist driving erratically in the north Tipperary area.
It is understood the man was driving into Newport village on the Thurles road when he was signaled to stop by the two officers near the local GAA pitch.
As the male officer approached the vehicle to investigate, the motorist -- seated in the driver's seat -- pointed a shotgun at him at close range and opened fire.
The shotgun blast narrowly missed the officer and went over his head.
The male garda attempted to overpower his assailant and grabbed the weapon. At the same time, the female sergeant -- attempting to assist her colleague -- pepper sprayed the man but he refused to give up the gun and the struggle on the outskirts of the quiet village continued.
Another shot was discharged during the struggle before the garda officers managed to take control of the weapon.
However, as they did so, the man produced a second firearm -- understood to be rifle -- and pointed it at the female officer. At close range a shot was discharged at her from the rifle, but did not strike her.
The two officers raced for cover behind their patrol car while the gunman opened fire at them.
It is understood that at least three more shots were fired at the officers as they hid from the gunman. The patrol car was struck several times before the assailant discharged a final shot and wounded himself fatally in the head.
The two officers were both struck by the man during the struggle to initially disarm him and the male garda suffered head injuries. Neither garda were seriously hurt in the incident. They were both understood to be deeply traumatised last night and were being comforted by their colleagues at Newport garda station.
As rain fell across the region last night, all access roads to the scene were sealed off as a full investigation was mounted.
The incident has been referred to the Garda Ombudsman who will carry out a full investigation. A team went to the scene last night and further investigations will continue today.