First Garda to die in the line of duty since 2015
A murder investigation is underway after a member of An Garda Siochana was shot dead while on duty in Co Roscommon.
He was Detective Garda Colm Horkan, who worked in the force for 24 years.
Detective Horkan (49) was responding to a call-out in the town of Castlerea late last night when he is believed to have been attacked before he was shot with his own gun. A man in his 40s has been arrested.
Awful news this morning coming from @GardaTraffic with the death of a Garda colleague in Castlerea. Thoughts from all @PoliceServiceNI with his family, friends and colleagues at such a difficult time. pic.twitter.com/e4ftmQYc20— Simon Byrne (@ChiefConPSNI) June 18, 2020
PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne offered his condolences.
"Awful news this morning," he tweeted, "Thoughts from all [at PSNI] with his family, friends and colleagues at such a difficult time."
NI Justice Minister Naomi Long added: "Last night Detective Garda Colm Horkan lost his life while he was on duty, serving and protecting his local community in county Roscommon.
“I want to express my sincere sympathy to his family, friends and colleagues as they come to terms with this awful news."
In a statement on Thursday morning, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris expressed his sympathies with his family, friends and colleagues.
"I am deeply saddened by the death of my colleague Detective Garda Colm Horkan.
"My thoughts, and the thoughts of all personnel in An Garda Síochána, are with the family, friends and colleagues of Detective Garda Colm Horkan at Castlerea Garda Station and the Detective Unit he served in.
"Colm served the communities he worked in with distinction and pride during his 24 years as a member of An Garda Siochana.
"Detective Garda Colm Horkan is the 89th member of An Garda Síochána killed in the line of duty. Today is a terrible reminder of the significant sacrifices, including the ultimate sacrifice, that Gardaí make to keep people safe."
A major garda probe is underway in the town. It is understood the detective's own gun was turned on him during an altercation.
Garda Horkan suffered catastrophic injuries and died at the scene.
The Policing Authority described the killing as “a wilful denial of the right to life, is an attack on the essence and the foundations of our democracy”.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar expressed “deepest sympathies” to the man’s family and friends, saying: “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. Sometimes the outcome is tragic and a Garda makes the ultimate sacrifice in the course of their duties.”
A native Charlestown, Mr Horkan played a central role in his community regardless of whether he was on or off-duty.
He was heavily involved in the local Charlestown Sarsfields GAA club and friends say his affectionate nick-name on the pitch was ‘The Bear’.
People called to the Horkan family home on the outskirts of the town this morning to sympathise with his father, sister and four brothers.
“We are all shocked. Colm was a straight talking man, an upstanding man and someone you could count on both on and off the field. I played football with him for years,” said family friend John Casey.
"When news started to filter through this morning we couldn’t believe it. Colm’s family run businesses in the town here just like we do, and we would be over and across the road to each other all the time,” he added.
“They are as close as family friends to us you could find. He was a role model for the town, and you always knew you could go to him for help or advice because he would give you a straight answer,” said Mr Casey.
He was as steady as a rock, as a garda and as a person.Dermot Horkan
Colm Horkan was unmarried and lived with his father and some siblings just on the outskirts of the town.
He is predeceased by his mother Dolores and his twin sister Collette who died a number of years ago from cancer.
Colm’s brother Dermot is a local funeral director in the town, and his father Marty runs a taxi business.
The family used to own a pub in the town.
“I only spoke to him a few days ago. I saw him across the road in his car and we had a chat. He was the last person to send a message to a WhatsApp group we’re in at around ten o’clock last night,” said Mr Casey.
“He was as steady as a rock, as a garda and as a person,” he added.
“He was straight-up and honest. This news is a massive blow to his family and the town,” he explained.
The shooting occurred on the Main Street in Castlerea. It is believed the officer was responding to a call about an altercation and arrived at the scene on his own. There was a struggle and shots were discharged.
Medics who were nearby tried in vain to save him and he was pronounced dead at the scene.
The suspect was arrested by other officers who arrived as back up. He is being held at Castlerea Garda Station under Section 30 of the Offences Against the State Act.
A Garda spokesman added: "It is with deepest sadness An Garda Siochana confirms the death of our colleague, resulting from fatal gunshot wounds received during an incident in Castlerea shortly before midnight on Wednesday 17th June 2020."
It is rare for a Garda to be killed in the line of duty. The last tragic incident was in 2015 when Garda Tony Golden was shot in Omeath, Co Louth. Garda Golden was the 88th member of the force to die on duty since the organisations foundation.
The town of Castlerea was put into an effective lockdown overnight, with Main Street and St Patrick’s Street, the two main arteries into the town, completely blocked off by gardaí.
A blue forensic screen could be seen from one of the approach roads, positioned at the central junction in the town.
Members of the Garda Technical Bureau were working at the scene from the very early hours of this morning.
Members of the Garda Armed Response unit and other garda vehicles could be seen travelling to and from the garda station in the town, which is the headquarters for the garda district.
With the town asleep, some lights came on in houses as the alarm was raised around 2.30am.
Gardai blocked off the centre of the town at the three junctions; on St Patrick’s St, on Henry Byrne Road and Ballindrimley Road.
Most cars were turned away but some were allowed pass.
AA Roadwatch said that diversions will remain in place for some time. "The N60 is closed in Castlerea following an incident last night. Diversions are still in place," they said.
In a statement Irish Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan expressed his shock and sadness.
“I want to express my heartfelt sympathy to the parents and family of the brave Garda who died doing his duty serving his community and to the wider family of An Garda Siochana who will be heartbroken.
“Our gardai work to keep Ireland safe at all times and this is a very difficult day for all of them and their families,” he said.
President of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) Antoinette Cunningham said she was “devastated”.
She offered deepest sympathies to the officer’s family and colleagues on “a sad sad day for An Garda Síochána“.
Fr John McManus, parish priest in Castlerea, said that he received a call from the local garda station at around midnight to attend the scene and offer the deceased garda a final blessing.
"Sadly, like many of my own colleagues, you're never sure what the next phone call may be. Often when you do hear a call from the garda station you are going out to something very tragic. Little did I know it was one of their own colleagues last night," he said on RTÉ Radio One Morning Ireland.
"Always and forever they are so professional on the scene in their guidance and direction, and I thought so poignantly last night in the stillness and silence and shock of the incident that they were there praying with me for their colleague."
This is devastating news for his family, the dedicated team of gardai in Castlerea and the community.Denis Naughten TD
This incident comes almost 40 years since Henry Byrne and John Morley, two members of An Garda Siochana, were shot dead while attending the scene of a bank robbery in Castlerea. Fr McManus said that the community has particularly felt the blow of the now three losses because they are "very much a part of the community" and widely respected in the Roscommon town.
"Our prayers and thoughts are very much with his family, relatives and his colleagues here in Castlerea and gardaí everywhere," he said.
Local TD Denis Naughten said he is “absolutely shocked and saddened“ to hear of the tragedy.
“This is devastating news for his family, the dedicated team of gardai in Castlerea and the community. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time,” he said.
Sligo Leitrim TD Frank Feighan, originally from Boyle in Co Roscommon, also paid his sympathies.
“It’s awful news to be hearing from Castlerea. Thoughts and prayers to his family and loved ones. Also his colleagues and friends in Garda Siochana,” he tweeted.
Roscommon MEP Luke 'Ming' Flanagan said: "Everyone is stunned by the news from Castlerea last night. May he rest in peace. Such a sad day."
Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald also expressed her sympathy.
"Sympathies and prayers with family, friends and an Garda Siochana colleagues of the Garda Officer killed last night. A shocking, senseless loss," she said
Independent News Service