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Date Posted: 03:49:18 05/28/05 Sat GMT
Subject: Rare (?) police shootings kill 2 in Ireland (NYNewsday)
Rare Police Shootings Kill 2 in Ireland
By SHAWN POGATCHNIK
Associated Press Writer
May 26, 2005, 2:52 PM EDT
DUBLIN, Ireland -- An undercover police unit killed two armed men as a gang tried to rob a suburban post office Thursday, a rare fatal shooting by Ireland's largely unarmed police force. The last such shooting was five years ago.
Prime Minister Bertie Ahern praised the operation as an appropriate response to the increasingly common use of guns by Dublin's criminal underworld. But Amnesty International and some leftist politicians questioned the use of lethal force and called for an independent investigation.
The police's elite Emergency Response Unit, which specializes in firearms use, and other armed detectives were lying in wait both inside and outside the post office in Lusk, a village north of Dublin, when they confronted the gang.
Police officially described what happened next as an exchange of gunfire that ended with two dead robbers and three others in custody. No police were injured. Police later arrested a woman on suspicion of involvement with the gang.
RTE, the state-owned broadcasting service, said police privately conceded that the gang members had not fired at police, but refused to drop their weapons, which included at least one firearm and a sledgehammer.
Ahern said he had "every confidence" in the Garda Siochana, Ireland's 12,000-member police force whose members rarely carry guns.
"Day in, day out, people are raising the issue of crime with me, the issue that we're too soft on crime, that we need to be tougher on crime, that we need more resources, more effort," Ahern said. "When the gardai (police) respond, I hope then people don't get weak-kneed."
A senior officer based in the southwest city of Cork, Chief Superintendent Kevin Ludlow, was appointed to investigate whether the Dublin officers used appropriate force.
But the Ireland chapter of Amnesty International questioned whether the police needed to open fire and called for an independent inquiry.
Gangs commonly target post offices because they distribute large amounts of cash, often with little security, to people collecting welfare payments.
Police said the gang entered the rear entrance of a Lusk shop, which contained a post office, and one man used a sledgehammer to try to smash the reinforced windows that separate postal staff from customers. The police then intervened in force.
Police identified the two slain men as Colm Griffin, 33, and Eric Hopkins, 24. Both men came from Dublin's rough inner north side, were on the police's list of drug dealers, and were suspected of involvement in a string of similar armed raids. Griffin, the alleged gang leader, had more than a dozen previous convictions.
Copyright 2005 Newsday Inc.
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