Armed standoffs and threats of self-harm - behind the scenes with garda negotiators

Armed standoffs and threats of self-harm - behind the scenes with garda negotiators

In just two days in June, garda negotiators had to deal with one man in an agitated state in his home, and another who pointed a gun at gardaí in their patrol car. File picture

Separate incidents over two days in June provide a rare glimpse into the potentially life-or-death mental health crisis situations that gardaí are called on to deal with.

They are situations, gardaí say, that have increased dramatically, with figures for callouts of the specialist National Negotiation Unit jumping by 90% so far this year.

Man was armed with hammer and wrench

On June 22, an armed support unit (ASU) joined local gardaí when they responded to reports that a male had threatened self-harm and locked himself in his bedroom at home.

Upon arrival at the scene, ASU members spoke with the family, who said he had been verbally aggressive and threatening towards them. 

In addition, he threatened to harm himself and any gardaí present. Members were also informed that several large dogs were present in the house.

Local gardaí and the ASU established a cordon and attempted to engage with the suspect. He entered the garden a number of times in an agitated state, armed with a hammer and a wrench.

A negotiator was deployed by the National Negotiation Unit (NNU) and an operation commander was appointed.

The NNU is the dedicated garda squad trained in dealing with high-pressure and dangerous siege or barricade-type situations. A garda report on the matter explained: 

As the subject became more erratic, a decision was made to enter the house. The members entered the dwelling and located the subject, who had barricaded himself into a ground floor room. 

The suspect climbed out a window into the rear garden where waiting ASU members apprehended him.

“The suspect was arrested by local Gardaí under Section 12 of the Mental Health Act 2001 and conveyed to Tallaght Garda Station, where he was later conveyed to hospital for psychological evaluation,” the report said.

Another man pointed a firearm at gardaí 

The following day, in an unrelated incident, regular gardaí were on patrol in the Southern Region when a male approached the marked garda patrol car pointing a firearm at the members inside.

A garda report on the matter said the members retreated and kept the man in sight. They then observed that he was pointing the firearm at a number of civilians.

The suspect himself dialled 999 and told the call taker that he had a gun and gave his location. The report stated: 

Additional Gardaí attended the scene and when the suspect noticed the patrol van, he raised the firearm, pointed it at the Gardaí and walked towards the van.

When the ASU arrived, the male again pointed his firearm at ASU members.

The report said: “An ASU member exited the vehicle and approached the suspect at speed and tackled him to the ground.”

The suspect was arrested for the offence of possession of an imitation firearm in a public place and detained.

“He was later brought to an acute mental health ward in a hospital as an involuntary patient,” the report said.

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