A Donegal Garda involved in a stand-off with an armed man in Glenties has called for ALL Garda stations to have a firearm.
Garda Louis Browne (pictured above) was one of several brave Donegal Gardai who helped bring down armed hunter Stephen Dowling.
Carlow man Dowling was jailed in February after going on a shooting spree in Glenties after a booze and cocaine bender in February, 2020.
The road policing unit cop was one of a number of unarmed officers who followed the deranged gunman for more than 40 minutes while waiting for armed back-up.
Gardaí later told a court it was a “miracle” that no one was seriously injured or killed.
Brave Gda Browne, who narrowly escaped being shot, has since called for all police stations to have a firearm because “what happened in Glenties could happen anywhere”.
He said “Fortunately nobody was hurt. I would call for every station to have access to a firearm because these things happen and you can’t plan for them.”
Gda Browne explained: “Somebody could have easily lost their life. It has affected all members and their families.
“It hits you at different times. People don’t realise this could happen anywhere but what really struck me was shortly after a member was killed in Castlerea in Roscommon – a similar town where nothing happens but that’s the nature of the guards.
“It can happen and will happen and that’s why the guards are there to protect people.
“When people are running away, you’re running to it.”
He also called for Ireland’s gun laws to be tightened and said Dowling, who carried the firearm legally, should not have had access to such a high-powered rifle.
Dad-of-one Dowling, of Burren Road Carlow, had been visiting Glenties before his night of mayhem unfolded.
He travelled to Donegal to shoot deer after seeing an advert by a farmer culling deer on his land.
After a successful day hunting Dowling, who shot his first red dear, went on a booze and drug bender in several pubs including Sonny’s Bar, Leo’s Bar Roddy’s Bar and the Highland’s Hotel.
He drank several pints of beer and whisky and Dowling also admitted to taking half a gram of cocaine which he bought for €100 in Carlow.
He became increasingly agitated and got into arguments with fellow punters as well as barmen in a number of the pubs.
He was refused service in the Highlands Hotel because he was aggressive despite claims that he was staying there as a guest.
Dowling then returned to his room at a local B&B, changed into his hunting gear, and armed himself with his high-powered Tikka 3X rifle and knife before heading toward Glenties.
Terrified people ran for cover as the welder marched through the town “like a soldier” shooting at Gardai, civilians, buildings and cars.
Speaking about the night of terror, Gda Browne said: “It was like a TV show. There was footage shown in court of him loading the gun and it was like something out of a video game.”
He initially recalled hearing a loud bang but didn’t assume it was anything sinister because of how peaceful the “country village” is.
Gda Browne explained: “We were in the Glenties and at the time we had a prisoner in Glenties station.
“And while we were there we heard a shot fired. At first, we didn’t realise it because it’s a country village.
“Nothing much happens there. It’s fairly peaceful but then Sergeant Edward Griffin came down and we heard another one and we decided we better go out and investigate it.
“So the two of us got into the car as we came out from the station.
“We discovered a car with the back window broken and the driver who worked in a takeaway down the street. He told us he had just been shot at.
“We didn’t really believe him because it seemed so surreal but then we started getting reports that there was a gunman on the streets in Glenties.” The Donegal garda said they tried to keep the situation at bay while waiting for armed backup.
The two officers were also supported by Gda Ciaran Cassidy, Emmet Cassidy and Noel Garaghan in another patrol car.
Gda Browne explained: “We only had our notebooks and pepper spray. I wasn’t firearms trained.
“We looked for assistance and there were two detectives in West Donegal and they were making their way as quick as they could to us but they were still 40 minutes away.
“We were there basically doing whatever we could to keep this man and hoped nothing happened.”
The closest Armed Support Unit to Glenties was dealing with a separate incident in Letterkenny during Dowling’s rampage.
Gda Browne, who had been following him for more than 30 minutes at this point, explained: “He stopped for a while and we could just see a silhouette in the dark.
“But at one stage we thought we heard a shot so we said we’d get out of the car because we were sitting targets so we went behind the car because it would offer some protection we thought.
“The two armed detectives Enda Jennings and Darren Carter arrived shortly after that and we were just getting ourselves together because we couldn’t see anything.
“There was a car coming from the Glenties so I went and turned it back but in that meantime, a shot was fired.
“When I came back the other officers had taken cover behind a wall and I was still behind the car … all I could see was debris. I was seeing stuff flying through the air.
“I didn’t hear the shot go off but it hit the car and debris was shooting out to the right.
“The other officer thought I was still in the car and the first thing he said to me was ‘I thought you were gone’ so I realised my life was in danger.”
The Donegal officer later learned he had cheated death when a ballistics expert examining the scene told him the bullet had fragmented on impact directly in front of where he had taken cover.
The gunman, who took nine shots in total, eventually placed his hands in the air after a brief stand-off with the cops.
Gda Browne described Dowling’s arrest as “teamwork” and said he had the gun around him like “Rambo” before walking towards the officers and dropping to his knees at which point he was apprehended.
By that stage, the two armed detectives were also supported by colleagues Garda Ronan Steede and Declan McBride. Describing the arrest, Gda Browne said: “We were waiting 40 minutes but that time just seem to go on and on and on.
“Another vehicle arrived from Glenties so I signalled it down because I thought they would drive into where the shooter was.
“Just shortly after, Dowling started shouting and walking down towards us.
“So the detectives and Sgt Griffin went towards him. I was getting my handcuffs out.
“He came out onto the footpath and next thing he’s crossed out to the middle of the road. He had the gun around him and he got down on his knees and then the boys pushed him down and overcame him. It was a team effort. They pulled the gun off him.
“Dowling also had a hunting knife tucked into the back of his trousers.”
Dowling was hit with an eight-year sentence after he pleaded guilty to six charges of having possession of a weapon including a rifle and hunting knife with intent to endanger life or cause damage to property in February.