Man accidentally shot in the face by armed garda, court told

A man was "accidentally" shot in the face and seriously injured by armed gardai when they intercepted an international "professional" burglary gang in Co Limerick, a court heard Friday.

Man accidentally shot in the face by armed garda, court told

By David Raleigh

A man was "accidentally" shot in the face and seriously injured by armed gardaí when they intercepted an international "professional" burglary gang in Co Limerick, a court heard Friday.

Aurimas Petraska, 32 of Church Street, Rathkeale, an associate of the man who was shot, pleaded guilty to a string of major burglaries, involving the theft of €150,000 of women's clothes and Chanel beauty products, from pharmacies across Munster.

The gang operated with military precision, Michael Collins, prosecuting, told Limerick Circuit Court.

"Dressed in black fatigues, wearing head lights", the gang were observed on CCTV footage inside the premises they robbed "checking their watches at regular intervals".

The gang timed their robberies to perfection, he said. "They were highly sophisticated...in and out in six minutes."

Petraska admitted transforming "cheap" cars into battering rams, capable of smashing through the premises.

He spray painted the windows of the cars, and replaced the seats with concrete blocks, ensuring they were heavy enough to mount footpaths and crash through the targeted business premises.

All available garda resources were put into tracking the gang's movements, the court heard.

International police units at Europol and Interpol are involved in the "ongoing" investigation.

Petraska, the only member of the gang to be charged, was arrested when members of the armed Regional Support Unit (RSU) intercepted a car traveling near Shanagolden, on June 29, 2016.

During the course of the arrest, a man "accompanying" Petraska was shot in the face after a garda's gun fired "accidentally", Michael Collins, prosecuting, said. The man spent several months in hospital to treat his serious injuries.

Petraska said he was paid around €3,000 for each robbery. He did not disclose the identity of the gang boss.

During one of the robberies, at O'Briens Pharmacy, Cahir, Tipperary, €20,000 worth of Chanel products was stolen. In a burglary at O'Connor's Pharmacy, Kinsale, Cork, €50,000 worth of Chanel products was taken, and €10,000 damage was caused.

Petraska also admitted stealing €80,000 worth of high-end women's clothes from Isobel Boutique, Adare Co Limerick.

In a victim impact statement, Isobel owner Kay Mulcair, said she lost €240,000 in revenue. She said her insurance company was refusing to meet the loss, as the security alarm had not been set at the store when the burglary occurred.

Kieran O'Connor, O'Connors Pharmacy, Kinsale, said he spent €40,000 on security after the robbery there, including having anti-ram bars installed outside the front of his premises.

Judge Tom O'Donnell praised gardaí attached to the Cork Division, led by Det Insp Joe Moore; Det Gda Michael Brosnan, and Det Gda Ailish Murphy, for their "painstaking" investigative skills in tracking the gang over a two-year period.

Aurimas Petraska sentencing adjourned to May 5th.

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