Additional reporting: Neil Michael and Daniel McConnell
A good garda out doing his duty.
The words of Garda commissioner Drew Harris summed up tributes that poured in hailing slain Detective Garda Colm Horkan.
The “beloved” Mayo man was gunned down on a quiet Roscommon street shortly before midnight on Wednesday – the third garda to be shot dead in the last seven years.
After he confronted the driver of a stolen motorbike that was reportedly driving erratically around Castlerea, an altercation ensued in which the man took his garda handgun from him.
Sources said that all 15 rounds in the firearm were discharged, and that the detective was hit four times at close range and two other bullets grazing him.
A man was arrested shortly afterwards and is being questioned, described as an individual well known to gardaí and social services – although it is unclear if Det Garda Horkan knew him.
Gardaí are investigating unconfirmed reports that the man had entered the garda station the day before in an “agitated state”.
Parallel to the murder investigation, a GSOC probe has been automatically set up given the discharge of an official firearm and a policy review will also take place on security aspects.
Meanwhile, tributes mounted on the 49-year-old garda, a GAA fanatic who had served 24 years.
President Michael D Higgins described the killing as “appalling”, saying the death of a garda in the line of duty was a “blow to us all”.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said:
Garda Dave Conroy, the local representative of the Garda Representative Association said: “Our thoughts and prayers are with Colm's family, friends and colleagues. It’s an example of the dangers every garda in the country puts themselves in and the dangers that can befall them in a second’s notice.”
Speaking at Castlerea Garda Station before he visited the garda's family in Charlestown, Co Mayo, Mr Harris said he was a “beloved” individual, killed in a “random” act that had “no purpose”.
He said he was “a good garda out doing his duty” and that the killing was “an attack upon us all”.
Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said the death would cause “untold heartbreak” to his family and colleagues.
The parish priest in Castlerea, Fr John McManus told RTÉ of the poignant scene when he performed the last rites on Det Gda Horkan.
“You’re never sure what the next phone call will be, when you get a call from the gardaí you never know what you face, little did I know that it was one of their own."
He said colleagues of the shot garda detective were “so professional” at the scene, adding: “They were literally praying with me."
Former Mayo footballer John Casey, a close family friend of the Horkans in Charlestown, told RTÉ: “Colm was a great community man, everyone liked him, extremely popular, a role model in professional and personal life. On and off the pitch, Colm was a fella you would bring to the trenches with you.”
He said the community was “devastated” and the family “dumbfounded”.
Det Garda Horkan lived at home with his elderly father Marty and is also survived by four brothers and one sister.
He added: “He loved his job, he would be your role model guard, straight as a dye. What you saw with Colm was what you get. Ultimately, it cost him his life.”
Retired sergeant John Hynes, who worked closely with Det Garda Horkan, told Joe Duffy that he was his “right hand man” on investigations, including the infamous Roscommon child sex abuse case which resulted in convictions in 2009 against a mother and father for the abuse of their six children.
After speaking to his dad Marty, Mr Hynes said: “Colm left the house at approximately 2pm - he watched some racing on TV with his dad - said ‘bye’ to his dad he went off to work. That’s the last memory his poor dad is going to have of him.”