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'Hit team' member 'drove 4x4 at garda who feared for his life'

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Andrew O’Keeffe pleaded guilty to possessing a handgun

Andrew O’Keeffe pleaded guilty to possessing a handgun

Andrew O’Keeffe pleaded guilty to possessing a handgun

A garda feared for his life and that of a man he was restraining on the ground when a member of a "hit team" drove a 4x4 at them, the Special Criminal Court has heard.

The garda saved himself and the man on the ground by discharging his gun at the vehicle, before it veered to the side and smashed into a parked car while "accelerating at 95pc capacity", the court was told.

Owen Cummins (41), of St Attracta Road, Cabra, Dublin 7, pleaded guilty at the Special Criminal Court last November to possessing a Beretta handgun and silencer.

Cummins was charged with possessing a firearm - a Beretta 92S handgun and silencer - in such circumstances as to give rise to a reasonable inference that he had not got it in his possession for a lawful purpose at Jamestown Road, Inchicore, Dublin 8, on September 6, 2017.

At a sentence hearing for Cummins at the Special Criminal Court yesterday, Caroline Cummings BL, for the State, put it to Detective Superintendent Dave Gallagher that on September 6, 2017, gardai had "confidential information" that several men were actively targeting another person in Ballyfermot, Dublin 10.

Det Supt Gallagher, who was attached to the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Unit at the time, agreed and confirmed that "intelligence" led gardai to believe that the men had a white Citroen Berlingo van and a firearm.

Siren

Det Supt Gallagher briefed gardai to patrol the area with "high visibility" in a bid to prevent any threat to life, the court heard.

Gardai located the Citroen Berlingo near Raheen Park and Garda Stephen Gillespie noticed there was a nervous-looking man in the driver's seat, the court heard.

As gardai carried out a registration check, the van sped off on to Kylemore Avenue "narrowly missing a vehicle".

Gda Gillespie and his colleagues put on their blue lights and siren and followed the van as it headed towards the Naas Road. The van failed to stop at a stop sign, prompting other drivers to take action for their own safety.

It continued to move at speed along Kylemore Way where a civilian witness saw the driver pass a "plastic bag" to the van's passenger who, in turn, threw the Dunnes Stores bag out of the window.

Det Supt Gallagher told the court that Kylemore Way is effectively a "dead end" for cars as there are bollards present.

The court heard the van stopped at the bollards and the chasing garda car collided with the rear passenger side of the van. Two men exited the van, and ran toward a parked Hyundai Tucson 4x4.

The passenger, Andrew O'Keeffe, was apprehended by Gda Gillespie and tackled to the ground, while the driver of the Citroen Berlingo, Cummins, got into the driver's seat of the 4x4.

O'Keeffe (30), from Drumcliff Road, Cabra West, Dublin 7, pleaded guilty in June 2018, to possessing a 9mm Beretta handgun and silencer in suspicious circumstances at Kylemore Way in Inchicore, Dublin, on the same date.

He was sentenced to nine years with one year suspended in August 2018.

Cummins then started the 4x4 as two of Gda Gillespie's colleagues tried to break the driver's window.

Det Supt Gallagher told the court that Cummins drove straight toward Gda Gillespie, who was restraining O'Keeffe.

Gda Gillespie waved his firearm and discharged a gunshot in an attempt to dissuade Cummins from hitting him and O'Keeffe, the court was told.

After the shot was fired, Cummins swerved, "narrowly missing" Gda Gillespie and O'Keeffe. The vehicle hit an unoccupied and parked Volkswagen Passat.

The court heard Cummins then drove toward Gda Gillespie's two garda colleagues.

Michael O'Higgins SC, for Cummins, a former heroin addict, said that another person, who is "extremely insulated from any form of detection", was "pulling strings" and giving Cummins instructions.

The court heard Cummins has 68 previous convictions. Mr Justice Tony Hunt will sentence him on March 3.