Two gardaí have described the life-changing impact of an ordeal in which they were forced to take cover behind the wheel of their patrol car for nearly 30 minutes after a gunman fired at them without warning using a semi-automatic pistol and a sub-machine gun.
One of the garda victims told the Central Criminal Court that it had helped him to speak to a colleague who had also been shot, but he hopes that he will never have to do the same for another colleague. He added: "I fear that is wishful thinking though, the way society is going and the total lack of respect people have for gardaí."
Daniel Goulding, who has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and lives with a threat against his life, pleaded guilty to attempting to murder the two gardaí, who cannot be named due to a court order. His defence counsel told the court that Goulding was not charged with "capital attempted murder", showing that the defendant did not understand that he was shooting at gardaí at the time.
At a sentencing hearing on Monday, both gardaí described how they had responded to reports of gunfire at Goulding's home. As soon as they got out of their unmarked patrol car outside Goulding's house they were immediately fired on without warning. The gunfire lasted three and half minutes and both gardaí suffered gunshot injuries to their legs and one to his hand.
The shooting stopped when Gda Brendan O'Hora arrived shortly after the first two gardaí and shouted at Goulding to "stop shooting". After two hours of negotiations Gda O'Hora persuaded Goulding to give up his firearms.
Goulding (39), of Whitechapel Grove, Clonsilla, Co Dublin, pleaded guilty to the attempted murder of the two detectives at his family home on May 25th, 2021. Mr Justice Paul McDermott will sentence him next Friday.
Sean Gillane SC for the Director of Public Prosecutions said Goulding is charged only with attempted murder and not the specific crime of attempting to murder a member of An Garda Síochána acting in the course of his duty. The court heard that Goulding was suffering from a psychotic episode at the time and that his life is under genuine threat. He referred to that threat against his life when gardaí interviewed him following the shooting.
One of the injured gardaí said that was the first call he had responded to that day and it was "very nearly my last". When he came under fire he said he jumped through his garda car to take cover behind it with his colleague on the other side of the car.
He said: "Gunshots were aimed directly at us injuring both of us. I have never come so close to death in my life, I never experienced fear like that before and hope not to again." The garda said that he is forever in debt to his colleagues from Blanchardstown Garda Station and members of the Emergency Response Unit who took him and his colleague from the scene.
He said he is unable to forget the incident and is reminded of it every day when he sees the scar on his foot. He lives with the discomfort and pain and believes he will require physiotherapy for the rest of his life. He said: "I often think of the 89 members of An Garda Siochana who have lost their lives doing their duty and I think that I came extremely close to becoming the 90th."
He said this thought causes him serious distress and the ordeal has had a significant impact on his partner and extended family. "I often think of how their lives would be if I had lost my life on that day and that is a disturbing thought."
He said that his career has also been impacted as "some doors have been closed to me through no fault of my own".
The other garda said that he has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. He has "constant flashbacks, mood swings and insomnia", he said.
He becomes transfixed on anything that appears threatening and believes he will never be able to return to front line duties where he feels he would now be a liability rather than an asset. One glance at the scars on his hand, he said, "brings me back to hiding behind that wheel not knowing if I was going to be killed."
He said that his demeanour and attitude have been impacted and he has lost his ability to defuse situations with words and humour. After 15 years as a garda in Blanchardstown he said he had been assaulted only once, something he put down to luck and his ability to deal with aggression and hostility calmly. On this occasion, he said he wasn't given an opportunity to protect himself or to defuse the situation. There was no warning or provocation, he said.
He said that he benefited from speaking to a colleague who had also been shot but hopes that he will never have to do the same for another colleague. He added: "I fear that is wishful thinking though, the way society is going and the total lack of respect people have for gardaí."
Detective Sergeant Michael Redmond told Mr Gillane that it was early evening when Goulding's neighbours heard what they believed to be gunshots coming from Goulding's home and saw him topless, shouting from a top floor window and acting erratically. As the two detectives arrived at the scene "immediately upon leaving their vehicle they were subjected to gunfire as the accused began to fire in the direction of the members and their car." One garda ducked behind the car while the other jumped through the patrol car while the shots continued.
Both gardaí had been struck and took cover behind the rear wheel of the car. One of the gardaí returned fire with his official firearm "to prevent Mr Goulding from continuing to fire shots".
Within minutes Det Gda Brendan O'Hora arrived at the scene. Gda O'Hora knew Goulding as he had been assigned as his "threat manager" after gardaí became aware of a threat against Goulding's life. Gda O'Hora shouted at the accused to "stop shooting", bringing an end to the gunfire. The standoff continued for about two hours, Gda Redmond said.
The two injured gardaí remained behind their patrol car for almost 30 minutes before gardaí using ballistic shields were able to safely take them away.
Gda Redmond said that CCTV showed that from the opening shots at gardaí to when Goulding stopped firing was three and a half minutes. Eight shots were fired at the two members using two firearms, one a Makarov semi-automatic pistol and the other a Makarov sub-machine gun. Some of the bullets lodged in the garda patrol car and one shattered the windscreen where the driver would have been sitting.
When gardaí searched Goulding's home they found a third firearm in a shed and 66 rounds of ammunition. Goulding has 33 previous convictions including one under the Misuse of Drugs Act for which he was jailed for ten years in 2009. In 2006 he was sentenced for possession of an article with intent to cause injury and had other previous for dangerous driving and damage to property.
Michael Bowman SC, for Goulding, said psychiatric reports drawn up for the court showed that Goulding was "in the grips of a psychotic episode at the time" but did not qualify for a special verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity. He was suffering from significant paranoia, anxiety and confusion and was only leaving the house once every three weeks to get injections of antipsychotic medication.
Mr Bowman said that his client was formally diagnosed with schizophrenia while in the Central Mental Hospital from 2010 to 2013. He suffers from delusions in which he sees and speaks to people he believes to be real. At the time of the shooting he believed himself to be under attack.
"He lives with a real threat on his life, which is a huge burden on top of his diagnosis," counsel said.
Mr Bowman accepted that the offence was of the "utmost gravity and seriousness" and that it was through good fortune that the gardaí did not suffer worse injuries. But he said it is "not a case with the hallmarks of a deep seated and directional intent to take another's life. It was not a premeditated action by any manner or means."
He said it was something that arose spontaneously where the accused was suffering from an ongoing, well-fixed psychiatric difficulty and while he is not entitled to a defence under the Criminal Law (Insanity) Act, he is entitled to a "degree of understanding in that regard".
He pointed out that the DPP had not gone for "capital attempted murder" which, counsel said, shows that his client didn't understand that he was shooting at gardaí. He believed that "parties were coming to get him" and he "lost it", counsel said, adding: "He was, at all times, struggling with mental health issues."
He asked the court to suspend a portion of Goulding's sentence to allow him to reintegrate into society. Mr Justice McDermott will deliver the sentence on Friday.