A Cork Garda who was shot at multiple times by a gunman after stopping his van at a checkpoint, said she was “honoured” to receive a Silver Scott Medal for “exceptional courage and bravery” after she tried to disarm the man, before he took his own life.
Sergeant Deborah Marsh, from Bishopstown, who was based at Tipperary Garda Station at the time, wrestled with the armed man after she and a colleague stopped his van in Lackamore, Newport, Co Tipperary, on January 30, 2012.
Moments after they stopped the van, Sgt Marsh and Garda Gerard Brassil of Newport Garda Station, who was also presented with a Silver Scott Medal, found themselves in a ferocious fight for their lives. “When I went to arrest him he produced a shotgun.
“I knocked the shotgun away and a shot was discharged, and my colleague and myself fought with the driver using pepper spray and an asp [baton],” Sgt Marsh said.
“My colleague was struggling with him with the gun. A second shot was discharged and we managed to get the gun off him. As we were moving away he produced a rifle,” she added.
Sgt Marsh fought back tears as she described the horror of the gunman aiming the rifle straight at her before he let off a volley of shots.
“I was about 15 metres from him, when he pointed the gun out the window and I begged him not to shoot me. He proceeded to take a number of shots at the patrol car, and at ourselves. He discharged nine shots before unfortunately he turned the rifle on himself and took his own life,” she said.
“It was hugely traumatic for him, his family, for us, our families, our extended families. I knew of him as he had recently moved to the area.” It took the Cork garda “a number of years” to battle back from the traumatic incident, but she did return to work. “When you face your mortality and you know that your uniform isn’t the shield that you thought it was; When you see the impact it had on my family, and the long procedure afterwards — the coroner’s court etc — it did take an awful lot out of me,” she explained.
The inspirational Garda sergeant now teaches recruits at the Garda training college.
“I tell them to stay safe, that’s the first thing. I remind them, like I remind myself, the uniform isn’t a shield and it doesn’t deflect bullets, unfortunately.” Sgt Marsh described it as “a huge honour” to be the only female garda on the day to receive one of 17 Scott bravery medals presented to officers at the Garda training college by Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan.
“It’s absolutely fantastic. For me, as a woman, it’s a huge, huge honour to act as a role model for other women in the organisation, and, I suppose, it shows the public that women don’t take a back seat in An Garda Síochána.
“We are out there, alongside our male colleagues, and the degree of equality within the gardaí is evident.”