A man accused of the capital murder of Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe told a bartender on three separate occasions that he shot a garda, the Central Criminal Court has heard.
Daniel Cahill, today giving evidence via video link from a building in New York, told the 13-person jury that Aaron Brady "ranted" about having shot a garda after he was punched in the eye during a bar fight. On another occasion Mr Brady was drinking heavily and "broke down" at the bar, telling Mr Cahill that he was involved in "robbery gone wrong" that led to him shooting a garda.
Aaron Brady (28) from New Road, Crossmaglen, Co Armagh has pleaded not (NOT) guilty to the capital murder of Det Gda Adrian Donohoe who was then a member of An Garda Siochana on active duty on January 25, 2013 at Lordship Credit Union, Bellurgan, Co Louth. Mr Brady has also pleaded not (NOT) guilty to a charge of robbing approximately e7,000 in cash and assorted cheques on the same date and at the same location.
Daniel Cahill (28) told Brendan Grehan SC for the prosecution that he comes from Dublin 13 and moved to New York in 2013 when he was 20 years old. He started working in the Coachman's Bar on Katona Avenue in the Bronx in December of that year and over the following two years saw Mr Brady at the bar on most weekends.
He described Mr Brady as not very tall, "definitely on the heavier side", with dark, gelled hair and a pale complexion.
He said Mr Brady didn't stand out, "I didn't pay him much mind the first couple of times I met him."
The Coachman's, he said, could be "a bit rough" and had its "shady characters". At least once every week he would require help with some sort of altercation, he said, adding: "Working in a bar in the Bronx with a pool table you'd better get a thick skin."
It would be "nothing out of the ordinary," he said, to have people "swinging digs" at one another.
He recalled that on one night Mr Brady was punched by another man and suffered a gash above his eye that bled heavily. The person who threw the punch left the bar and Mr Brady went to the bathroom where the witness followed him to make sure he was ok. Mr Cahill asked Mr Brady what had happened but Mr Brady "just ranted about what he was going to do now". He added that Mr Brady was "shook and erratic and emotional" and kept saying he was going to kill the other man. Mr Brady, speaking into the bathroom mirror as he cleaned the blood from his face and hands, said people know what he had done and what he was capable of. The witness remembered him saying he would shoot the other man and it wouldn't be the first person he had shot.
Mr Cahill added: "He said he [the other man] should know better because he had shot a member of An Garda Siochana in Ireland and it was a stupid thing to retaliate or mess with him."
The witness described Mr Brady as "almost hyperventilating" and as being "recklessly aggressive". He repeated multiple times that he was "going to kill him, going to shoot him," before the witness offered him a glass of water and sent him on his way.
Mr Cahill couldn't recall precisely when this happened but thought it was 2014. He remembered the conversation because what Mr Brady told him was "not normal". People often argued over the pool table, he said, "but the stuff that Aaron said to me was a lot more serious than what I was used to dealing with."
The witness remembered a second occasion in the Coachman's when Mr Brady arrived in the evening after work and was drinking heavily until the early hours. He was down, the witness said, and stopped Mr Cahill to talk to him about things he said he didn't feel right about and "things he had done in his life which were going to come back on him."
He added: "He asked me had I ever killed anyone."
Mr Cahill told him he hadn't and wouldn't know how that feels. Mr Brady "broke down" for 90 minutes to two hours and asked multiple questions that the witness thought were strange. He said: "He referenced killing people and how he felt about it." At the time Mr Cahill didn't know about Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe and didn't know if Mr Brady was "talking nonsense".
Mr Brady was upset, at times putting his face in his hands or putting his head on the bar.
The witness said: "He seemed to want to talk to me about these things. Every time I walked up to him he would ask if I had done things he had done and how I couldn't comprehend what it was like." Mr Brady told him he had nightmares.
He also told him that he was involved in a "robbery gone wrong that had led to him shooting someone. A member of An Garda Siochana."
The witness later said: "He mentioned multiple times that he had shot a garda in the course of this robbery."
By the end of the night Mr Cahill felt that Mr Brady was "beyond the point of being conscious" and "completely inebriated".
The witness described a third incident in 2015 while he was still working at the Coachman's. One night some customers invited him to a house party after he had finished his shift. When he arrived at the house he met Mr Brady and three other men.
He said these men were "trying to outdo each other" in what he described as a "pissing contest" to see who was the one you would not want to get on the wrong side of. He said Mr Brady "decided he had the most experience because he was the only person there who had killed someone."
As the conversation went on the witness said he heard Mr Brady say he was the only person who had ever used a gun to kill someone.
Mr Cahill said: "He said that everyone around knows who he is and what he had done and the crimes he had committed and this was why nobody wants to get on the wrong side of him." He said he also heard him say that he shot a garda and while talking about his feelings said that it "takes a certain type of person to manage these feelings well".
Mr Cahill felt that Mr Brady wasn't drunk and was "owning that he had done something or was capable of something, like we should look at him in a different manner."
Mr Brady had told the group that it was a big burden to carry around and that he had nightmares, "dreams where he sees bangs, guns shots, people screaming."
Mr Cahill left the party after less than 30 minutes. It wasn't a place where he wanted to spend a lot of time, he said.
After leaving the Coachman's Mr Cahill worked in the Brazen Fox in White Plains, New York. One night in summer 2016 after leaving work after 2am he was driving home when he saw Mr Brady and a group of people standing outside Behan's Bar on Katona Avenue. Mr Cahill was stopped at a traffic light when he said Mr Brady came to his car and flagged him down. He said Mr Brady told him he thought he was going to go to prison and that he was "in the papers in Ireland". He said Mr Brady showed him an article on his phone with a headline saying something to the effect that a man who was on the run having shot a police officer was "living it up" in New York. He said Mr Brady told him that he was the subject of the article and that a picture used as part of the feature was taken from Mr Brady's social media. Mr Brady showed Mr Cahill the original social media picture, the witness said. Mr Cahill said he believed Mr Brady was tyring to intimidate people or "make people think he was someone important. I didn't understand why he was saying this to me."
During cross examination Justin McQuade BL for the defence asked Mr Cahill if he was saying to the jury that they can trust him because he is a "good citizen". Mr Cahill said that he thinks he is an "outstanding citizen" and that he had been trying to improve himself since leaving Ireland. He said that he has many police officers who are friends and who would vouch for him and his character and that he does a lot of work for his community. He added: "You come to my community and speak to the people and ask them what they think of me."
He said that if someone had information about a police officer being killed he would hope they would "step up". He accepted that he had "done my fair share of things I wish I didn't do and I take full responsibility for them."
He agreed that when Homeland Security first called to his house in July 2019 that he hid in his attic. He said he had been asleep and was frightened by a loud bang on the door and didn't know who it was so he jumped through a latch in the ceiling. When Mr McQuade asked why an outstanding citizen would hide in the attic when law enforcement knocked on the door he said he didn't know it was law enforcement and was scared and that he startles easily due to things that have happened in his life. At the time agents from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) were deporting people, he said.
The cross examination will continue tomorrow in front of Mr Justice Michael White and a jury of six men and seven women.