A 24-year-old Carlow man has apologised for his actions on a night out in Glenties, Co Donegal, which were described in court as being "like a rampage from the wild west".

Stephen Dowling, from Burrin Road in Carlow, travelled to Glenties in February 2020 for a hunting trip with his uncle and cousin. They had responded to an ad by a local farmer to hunt deer that he was having difficulty with.

Mr Dowling, who had a legally-held high-power rifle, shot and killed a red deer and later that night the three men went out and visited a number of local bars and a hotel.

Letterkenny Circuit Court was told that Dowling drank pints and shorts, and also took a half a gram of cocaine. He became very intoxicated, he was agitated, aggressive, and loud and was "making a nuisance of himself".

Mr Dowling, an apprentice welder and father of one child, was ejected from two premises. He, his uncle and cousin returned to the B&B they were staying in but just after midnight Dowling left the house again, having changed into his hunting clothes, and he started walking up the main street carrying his rifle.

Prosecuting Barrister Patricia McLaughlin said that Dowling "over a period of an hour, went around the streets of Glenties with his high-powered rifle with a telescopic sight attached, firing shots, at many occasions towards civilians, gardaí and property".

Witnesses said that he had been extremely intoxicated but "straightened himself up" and "was like a soldier marching up the main street".

He fired at the rear window of a BMW car and the shot penetrated a headrest and went out the windscreen. Shots were fired at three houses, penetrating windows and a wall.

Detective Garda Enda Jennings described how unarmed gardaí first tried to manoeuvre Dowling out of the town before he and his colleague arrived to give armed support. He and Detective Garda Darren Carter had their arms drawn and they took cover on the Mill Road where he saw Dowling lie across a pillar and shoot towards them. He said it was a tense situation and he knew they were in danger.

Det Jennings said that at one point Dowling made a sudden movement and he thought he was reaching for his rifle to shoot at Det Carter but he stumbled and they rushed at him, disarming him and putting him under arrest.

Dowling apologised in court to the gardaí and all witnesses and said he wanted to pay for the damage to property. He said he did not mean to do any harm and no longer drinks or takes drugs.

His barrister, Colm Smyth, said that his "rampage" was like "something from the wild west" and it is something that weighs heavily on him and troubles him and his family daily.

He and his partner are expecting their second child soon and Mr Smyth said he has no previous convictions. He said Dowling came to public attention following the incident in Glenties when he rescued a child from a pit bull dog in Carlow and is also involved in charity work.

Mr Smyth said his client perpetrated a "reckless act of tyranny against the community and the gardaí who were trying to protect them and he is very remorseful".

Victim impact statements were given in court on behalf of the gardaí and local people affected on the night. They spoke of the fear they felt for their lives. A number of gardaí said they had been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and had to take time off work.

Det Garda Jennings said he believed there was a deliberate attempt by Dowling to shoot him and his colleague; they were the only armed support within an hour of Glenties but he knew they were outgunned and the odds were stacked against them because Dowling had a higher powered gun.

Sergeant Eamonn Griffin said the town was in a state of terror and Dowling was taking deliberate aim at gardaí. "It's nothing short of a miracle that a life was not taken that night."

One man, whose BMW car was shot at by Dowling, said he had left the country because he no longer felt safe living there. Tejender Kalsi, who worked at a local pizza take-away, said his car was written off and he could not get public transport to work so he was out of work.

Dowling pleaded guilty to ten charges relating to the night - five counts of possession of a firearm with intent, one count of possession of an offensive weapon (a hunting knife) and four counts of criminal damage.

Judge John Aylmer will sentence Dowling next Tuesday.