A Dublin man was shot in his shoulder during a struggle with an armed off-duty Garda Special Detective Unit (SDU) officer, a court has heard.
The incident occurred at the junction of Kingsland Parade and Portobello Road in South Dublin at approximately 2 am on August 23rd, 2017.
Darren Boyd, 29, from Cabra, and Shane Thomas, 30, with an address in Finglas, Dublin, have pleaded not guilty to assaulting Garda Sergeant Colm Finnerty. At the time, he was a Garda attached to the SDU in Harcourt Square, Dublin.
Mr Thomas, who was shot in the back of his left shoulder, also denies an additional charge for unlawful possession of cocaine allegedly discovered falling from him when he was rushed to St James’s Hospital.
The non-jury trial commenced before Judge John Hughes at Dublin District Court on Thursday.
In evidence, Sergeant Finnerty told the court he had finished a 13-hour shift and left work in plain clothes to drive home in his private car.
He had already been aware of an armed robbery at the Conrad Hotel in the city and noticed a Toyota Yaris with three occupants at Kevin Street.
The car had driven on the wrong side of the street. He suspected it could have been involved in the robbery and that the occupants could be armed.
He called Garda command and control as he followed the Toyota in his Mini. He said he gave his information to the dispatcher when he went by Synge Street, so it could be passed on to other units.
The witness said he followed the Toyota and noticed its driver was looking in its rearview mirror.
He said it pulled in at Portobello Road, and he parked a distance away and rang the dispatcher again.
He said he assessed and did a tactical analysis of the situation. The defendants and a female got out of the Toyota and began walking in his direction.
Cross-examined by defence barristers Oisin Clarke and Eoghan Weldon, he agreed there was an element of fear, and he thought he would be a “sitting duck” in his car.
Sergeant Finnerty said he got out of his car but realised he was silhouetted by street lighting, presenting him as a target, so he moved closer to a tree.
He testified that he identified himself as a garda while holding his official ID and told them, “armed gardai, show me your hands” twice or three times.
He removed his weapon from his holster and held the firearm in the “low ready position” in his right hand.
He was asked for his badge number and claimed Mr Thomas then “lunged” at him and grabbed his left arm.
He said he moved his gun to the “high ready”, pointing up; however, his finger was not on the trigger. The court heard that he fended off Mr Thomas, who wrestled with him and still had his left arm.
The officer said the weapon did not have a safety catch but required 14 and a half pounds of pressure to pull the trigger. It was a feature to prevent it from going off accidentally or negligently.
Sergeant Finnerty alleged that during the struggle with Mr Thomas, the co-defendant Mr Boyd somehow pulled down the firearm and was responsible for the gun being discharged.
The dispatcher was still on the phone, and a recording of the call was played during the hearing.
Sergeant Finnerty disagreed with Mr Clarke that one of the men could be heard replying that “I’m on the fucking ground. You are after shooting me”.
Mr Clarke put it to him that the entire incident took about 10 seconds, but he disagreed and thought, after hearing the recording, it was closer to 30 or 40 seconds.
He also denied suggestions that in the recording, he was heard telling Mr Thomas, “You are not shot”.
He told counsel, “I don’t hear it clearly as you can”.
The officer also denied telling Mr Thomas that a blank was fired.
Questioned by Mr Weldon, he did not accept that he was tired after a 13-hour shift and told the court that he was alert.
He had suspected they were armed and “potentially dangerous” but agreed he did not say that to the dispatcher.
Mr Weldon suggested to Sergeant Finnerty that he concocted a fabricated story and was responsible for the gun being fired, which he completely rejected.
The court heard that afterwards, he called for urgent assistance and other garda units and a Dublin Fire Brigade ambulance arrived.
A witness filmed the scene as they were on the ground after the shooting.
The court heard that the officer’s suspicion that they were involved in the hotel robbery was incorrect.
A statement from another garda who arrived later recorded that it was “not an aimed shot, it was an unintentional discharge of the firearm”. Sergeant Finnerty disagreed with that and said that he was not responsible for the discharge.
The hearing resumes on Friday.