Two separate investigations have been launched after a shot was discharged during an undercover Garda operation targeting Eastern European gangs.
A Lithuanian man is in a stable condition at Universtiy Hospital Limerick after being shot during the operation in the early hours of yesterday morning. The shot was discharged during a struggle after gardaí confronted two men, believed to be part of an international gang.
It is believed the man was shot in the neck and not the head as earlier reported.
The bullet is lodged close to his spinal cord and there are growing fears he may be paralysed as a result.
The garda ombudsman commission and gardaí are carrying out two separate investigations.
A second Lithuanian man was arrested at the scene in Co Limerick and is being held under Section 50 of the Criminal Justice Act, 2007 at Henry Street Garda Station in Limerick. He can be held for seven days.
Both men in their 30s are believed to have arrived in the country in recent weeks and rented accommodation in the Cork area.
In a major operation, gardaí in the Cork division were tracking the two men for some days and members of the armed Regional Support Unit from Cork and undercover gardaí followed the silver D-reg Toyota Corolla car they men were using from Cork late on Tuesday night.
The two travelled through Newcastle West shortly after 2.30am on Wednesday and were at Jobber’s Cross, near Shanagolden village when the gardaí moved in forced the car to stop.
It is believed a shot was discharged as the two men were confronted.
The ombudsman investigation centres on the circumstances in which the shot was fired. One man was hit in the face by a bullet and removed from the scene by ambulance to University Hospital Limerick. He is said to be critical but stable.
The second man was arrested at the scene and brought to Henry St station.
The road was closed and the scene preserved after the garda ombudsman’s office was alerted. Investigators spent over five hours at the scene before the road was reopened to traffic.
The undercover Garda operation was part of a major crackdown on the activities of a foreign criminal gang.
During the past four months, the gangs are suspected of being involved in the theft of nearly 20 quads from farms in the West Limerick area. Some of the quads were valued in the region of €20,000.
Jimmy Woulfe Mid-West Correspondent
Gardaí have been monitoring the activities of Eastern European criminals suspected of targeting farms and pubs across Munster for months.
The gang specialises in the theft of expensive quad bikes from farms and burglaries at isolated rural shops and pubs.
They fly into the country for short periods, carry out their raids, and fly out again. They travel in rented cars.
They use spotters who live here to identify potential targets and give exact locations and directions to the gang.
The spotters use drones to carry our reconnaissance of isolated farms.
When quads are stolen they are brought to a central location and placed in shipment containers for exports.
One Garda source said: “They usually have vans to move a quad from the location of the theft. We know of one instance recently, the van they were using to transport the quad, broke down and one of them drove the quad along a main road in the middle of the night to get it to the home of one of their spotter associates.
“They seem to have a ready market abroad. The gang members are hard to track down. Some quads they steal can be worth anything between €15,000 and €20,000. About 18 quads have been stolen from farms in West Limerick in recent months.”
The gang was also recently involved in the theft of a number of camper vans.
A source said: “They basically found out locations where these vans were parked and drove off with them. We discovered that they just drove to ferries and disappeared.”
Gardaí are liaising with colleagues in other countries to monitor the movements of known criminal gang members.
On arrival in this country to carry out crimes, gang members use hired cars and stay in rented accommodation and do not have any direct meetings with their spotters and confine contact to texts and mobile phone.
Other Eastern European gangs have been linked to the theft of copper used to insulate high-voltage ESB lines.
The man arrested after yesterday’s operation in Limerick can be held for seven days under Section 50 of the Criminal Justice Act 2007.
The wounded man is being cared for the intensive care unit at University Hospital Limerick.
Garda ombudsman investigators have taken possession of the garda weapon from which the bullet was discharged and have taken statements from gardaí involved in the surveillance of the two men.
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