Police swoop on shopping centre as ‘man with rifle’ turns out to be roof cleaner

A man going about his normal day's work was blissfully unaware he had unwittingly sparked a major armed police response.

Eric Tobin, 25, was washing down the roof of the Dunnes Stores shopping centre in Ballyvolane, Ireland, last Tuesday as emergency services raced to his location.

An onlooker had spotted Eric on the roof around 4pm and mistook his power hose for a rifle, leading to a frantic 999 call.

Police soon sped to the scene and while the apprentice could hear sirens – he had no idea they were coming for him.

Eric told the Irish Mirror: "Basically I was behind a wall up on the roof power hosing, I heard loads of sirens going off and didn’t think anything of it until it sounded like they were below me so I popped my head over the wall to see what was going on.

"I looked down and saw the armed response unit, jeeps blocking the car park, and two guards with the bullet proof vests and hands on the holster as soon as they saw me.

"One asked what was I doing, I just said 'power hosing why?'

"And then he just talked into his radio and they went away."

Even then Eric had no idea what was really happening until he returned to his work van where his colleague explained it all.

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He added: "I didn’t have a clue what was going on until I got down and the fella I was working with told me the story because he was talking to them.

"First they told him stay in the van, that there’s someone with a rifle on the roof and he had to explain to them it was only me with the power hose.

"I just thought I might have set off a security alarm or something when I was going up to the roof – the guards were there less than five minutes to be honest because they saw it was only a power hose fairly quickly."

Gardai confirmed they did respond to a call from a concerned onlooker but quickly stood down their operation once they realised it was a false alarm.

A garda spokesperson told the Irish Mirror: "Gardaí were alerted to an alleged firearm incident at a business premises in Ballyvolane, Co. Cork on Tuesday, October 20, 2020, at approximately 4.30pm.

"A number of Garda units were dispatched to the scene. On arrival, it transpired this was a false alarm and there was no firearm present."

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