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Lusk inquest: Garda who shot unarmed raider acted in self-defence

A MEMBER of the Garda Emergency Unit (ERU) who shot an unarmed raider in the course of a foiled post office robbery in Lusk believed that an unarmed raider had a gun when he shot him, a jury at an inquest has found.

Dublinmen Colm Griffin, 33, of Canon Lillis Avenue, and Eric Hopkins, 24, of Lower Rutland Street, Dublin 1, were shot dead by members of the ERU as they tried to rob a post office at the Village Store, Lusk, on the morning of May 26, 2005.

The nine-member jury yesterday agreed with the coroner that the ERU detective who shot Mr Hopkins, Det Garda A, believed Mr Hopkins was armed at the time he shot him and returned a narrative verdict in accordance with the evidence in the cases of both Griffin and Hopkins.

They were recharged by the coroner to recommence their deliberations just after 3pm and spent less than an hour in the jury room.

The jury found that one of the three raiders, Colm Griffin, died from a gunshot injury to the head. Eric Hopkins, died from a gunshot that passed through his heard.

Up to 40 witnesses gave evidence over the course of the six-day inquest, which included seven gardaí involved in the operation to apprehend the raiders.

They included the garda who shot the raiders, Detective Garda A and his partner Detective Garda B, who entered the post office at the back of the supermarket seconds before the raid commenced with the intention of stopping them from entering.

The inquest also heard evidence from postmistress Linda Neary, who witnessed the raid and who described the terror to the court.

Plasterer Noel Murphy, who was in the supermarket at the time of the raid, told the court: "I was absolutely terrified I was going to get shot. He shouted, ‘Get down’ again and extended the gun towards us."

The highly organised Garda operation to apprehend the raiders commenced at approximately 5am. However, efforts by the gardaí to stop the raiders’ car prior to the raid failed.

Det Garda A subsequently shot Hopkins and Griffin in self-defence as he believed he was going to be shot and in order to protect the others in the store.

Coroner Dr Brian Farrell expressed his condolences to the Hopkins and Griffin families.

The inquest was in its fifth day when it was halted abruptly on September 25 following a surprise application by the Garda Ombudsman Commissioner to adjourn the inquest following a complaint it had received in relation to inappropriate "lethal force" used in the death of Mr Hopkins. The jury had already been sent out to deliberate a verdict. However, the coroner refused the application.

Members of the Hopkins and Griffin family appeared unhappy with the narrative verdict.

One family member walked out of court shouting, "scummy murdering bastards".