Murder of Irish detective was random act – police chief

An Irish police detective was murdered with his own weapon in a “random act” in Co Roscommon, the head of the State’s police force has said.

A murder investigation was launched after Detective Garda Colm Horkan, who had served with the Garda for 24 years, was killed in an incident in the town of Castlerea, 125km north-west of Dublin, just before midnight.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris also described Mr Horkan’s death as “an attack upon society”.

A man aged in his 40s has been arrested and is being held at Castlerea Garda Station.

Detective Garda Colm Horkan
Detective Garda Colm Horkan was killed in the incident on Wednesday night in Castlerea, Co Roscommon (handout/PA)

Mr Harris said Mr Horkan was shot with his own weapon during an altercation with a man close to the Garda station.

It is believed the officer had intervened in an incident unfolding on the street as he was returning to the station.

Mr Harris added: “The facts as we know them at this time are that this was in effect a conversation between Detective Garda Horkan and a member of the public.

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

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

Speaking in Castlerea, Mr Harris added: “I can certainly say at this moment in time that there is no chance at all of a bigger picture in terms of organised crime or a subversive.

“What we have here is a random act and a violent act which has led to the death of Detective Garda Horkan.

“It is tragic and it is an attack upon us all.

“Policing is an extension of good citizenship and we should acknowledge that this demeans and belittles us all. It grieves us all as a society that this has happened. It is not how we view ourselves and it is not how we wish to be seen.”

As the incident involved a Garda firearm, it has been referred to the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission.

The detective was from Charlestown, Co Mayo. He is survived by his father, sister and four brothers, the Garda Representative Association said.

Police have closed the centre of Castlerea to traffic as investigations continue in the town of fewer than 2,000 people.

Mr Horkan is the 89th member of the force to be killed in the line of duty.

A sombre mood pervaded the town following the murder.

A Garda member was visibly emotional as she laid a bouquet of flowers at the edge of the town.

Local Castlerea publican Ollie Hester said he and others in the town are in a “deep state of shock and sadness”.

Castlerea Garda shooting
Garda at the scene in Castlerea, Co Roscommon (Niall Carson/PA)

He added: “He was such a lovely man and so well respected in the community here. He was an absolute gentleman. No-one in the town can get over what has happened to him.”

Mr Harris said Castlerea has lost a “really beloved member” of the community.

Gardai are appealing for anyone with information about the incident, and for CCTV footage of the scene.

“We understand an image was shared on social media so we are appealing for that as it could be very useful and important to us in this investigation,” Mr Harris added.

He described Mr Horkan’s death as “a dreadful loss”, and said it is difficult to say whether he knew the person alleged to have shot him.

“Detective Horkan would have spent so much time here and he knew so many people. It would be hard to say who he did not know in the town and the surrounding area.”

Mr Horkan’s colleagues and the wider Garda community are “extremely saddened and shocked” by his killing, he added.

Irish President Michael D Higgins said: “The death of a Garda detective on duty in Castlerea has come as a shock to us all.

“As President of Ireland I wish to express my deepest sympathy to the family and friends of the Garda, and to all those who have been affected by this tragedy.

“An Garda Siochana play a crucial role in our communities and this loss of life is traumatic for our society as a whole.”

Irish Premier Leo Varadkar extended his deepest sympathies to the officer’s family and friends.

“Every day our gardai put themselves on the front line of crime prevention, on behalf of all of us,” he said.

“This requires regular acts of bravery and courage. Sometimes the outcome is tragic and a garda makes the ultimate sacrifice in the course of their duties.

“Our thoughts today are with all those grieving as a result of this tragic incident.”

President of the Garda Representative Association Jim Mulligan said: “On behalf of the GRA, I extend our deepest sympathy to the family of our colleague fatally shot in the line of duty in Castlerea, Co Roscommon, overnight.

“Our brave colleague died as result of injuries sustained when he was responding to an incident. He was based in Ballaghaderreen, Co Roscommon, in the Castlerea District,” he said.

I extend my deepest sympathies to the family and friends of the Garda who has died in the course of their duties.

Every day our Gardai put themselves on the frontline of crime prevention, on behalf of all of us. This requires regular acts of bravery and courage.

— Leo Varadkar (@LeoVaradkar) June 18, 2020

North of the border, Police Service of Northern Ireland Chief Constable Simon Byrne offered his condolences.

“Awful news this morning coming from @GardaTraffic with the death of a Garda colleague in Castlerea,” he tweeted.

“Thoughts from all @PoliceServiceNI with his family, friends and colleagues at such a difficult time.”

In 1980, two members of the Garda were shot dead near Castlerea in the village of Loughglynn.

Detective Garda John Morley and Garda Henry Byrne were killed by armed bank robbers.

Roscommon-Galway TD Denis Naughten said the community is in shock following the latest incident.

“We are absolutely devastated, shocked and saddened by what we heard overnight,” he told the PA news agency.

“A member of An Garda Siochana doing his job protecting the community has lost his life in such very tragic circumstances.

“This is devastating news for his family and the gardai in the Castlerea district and for the local community, and our thoughts and prayers are with Colm’s family at this time.”

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