PSNI officer shot in Omagh was lead investigator in Natalie McNally case
Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell was shot in front of his son
A senior police officer shot in front of his son at a sporting complex in Omagh was today named as Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell.
Mr Caldwell has led some of the PSNI’s most high-profile investigations including the initial probe into the murder of Natalie McNally and the murder of Shane Whitla.
Assistant Chief Constable Mark McKeown said Mr Caldwell is currently in a stable but critical condition.
Mr Caldwell was shot by two gunmen while placing footballs into the back of his car while accompanied by his young son at 8pm on Wednesday evening.
While attempting to run from the scene, the senior officer fell to the ground where the gunmen continued to shoot him.
Mr McKeown said the attack – in front of multiple parents and children – was “callous.”
“John is someone who dedicates himself to service both as a senior investigating officer and for victims in bringing others to justice and as an active member of the community as described this morning,” he told the BBC’s Good Morning Ulster show.
“It shows the callous nature of this attack in a crowded space, where children and parents are in the vicinity – many of those young people running in sheer terror to get to safety.”
Police have said the investigation into the shooting of Mr Caldwell is at an “early stage” and believe the gunmen made off in a small dark car that was later found burnt out.
Mr McKeown added: “I would appeal to anyone with information about the vehicle or anything else, which may be of use to the enquiry. Please come forward to police.
"I would also like to pay tribute to the brave member of the public who ran towards John and administered first aid and would thank our partners in the Ambulance Service.”
Mr McKeown said that if it wasn’t for the quick action of both, “we may have been looking at something different.”
The PSNI has launched an attempted murder investigation.
The high-ranking detective remains in a critical but stable condition in hospital following the attack by masked gunmen in Omagh last night.
The two assailants are believed to have fled across the border to the Republic, and the gardaí are helping the PSNI with their investigation.
There were reports of a burnt-out car found near the scene of the attack.
Northern Ireland’s chief constable vowed to “relentlessly pursue” those behind the gun attack.
Gardaí have confirmed they are also investigating.
In a statement, the Garda said it is "currently responding to an ongoing incident which took place earlier this evening in Northern Ireland".
"We are working closely in cooperation with our counterparts in the PSNI," a spokesperson said.
The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service said they received a 999 call at 8.02pm following reports of an incident in the Slievard area of Killyclogher.
"NIAS dispatched a Rapid Response Paramedic Emergency Crew and an ambulance officer to the incident," a spokesperson said.
"Following assessment and initial treatment at the scene, one patient was taken by ambulance to Altnagelvin Area Hospital."
Britain’s Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Chris Heaton-Harris said it was a “shocking incident”.
"My immediate thoughts are with the PSNI officer and his family. Those responsible for such horror must be brought to justice,” he said.
Ulster Unionist Party MLA Tom Elliott has indicated the officer was shot in front of young people at a football coaching session.
"Despicable, cowardly action. No place in society for this," he tweeted.
The shooting has been condemned by politicians across the UK and Ireland.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar described the attack as “grotesque”.
"I have heard the terrible news from Omagh about the shooting of an off duty PSNI officer tonight,” Mr Varadkar said in a statement.
“Our thoughts are with the injured officer, his family, colleagues and friends at this difficult time.
“I utterly condemn this grotesque act of attempted murder.
“I call on anyone with information about it to share it with the PSNI.”
Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris said those responsible must be brought to justice.
"I am aware of the shocking incident in Omagh tonight and am being kept up to date," he said.
"My immediate thoughts are with the PSNI officer and his family.
"Those responsible for such horror must be brought to justice."
Tánaiste Micheál Martin said he is "shocked and appalled".
"My thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and colleagues in these difficult first hours. I urge anyone with information to go to the authorities," he said.
Sinn Féin vice president Michelle O'Neill said it was an "outrageous and shameful attack".
"Terrible news this evening of an off-duty police officer being shot in Killyclogher, Omagh," she said.
"This is an outrageous and shameful attack. My immediate thoughts are with the officer and his family.
"I unreservedly condemn this reprehensible attempt to murder a police officer."
DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson described the shooting as "terrible news from Omagh".
"Our heart goes out to the family of this courageous police officer and to his colleagues," he said.
"We condemn outright the cowards responsible for this.
"These terrorists have nothing to offer and they must be brought to justice.
"We stand with the PSNI."
Former Stormont justice minister, Naomi Long, said her thoughts were with the officer, his family, colleagues and all those affected by the shooting.
She branded the attack an "evil act of cowardice".
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said the shooting was a "chilling attack".
"My thoughts and the thoughts of my SDLP colleagues are with the man and with the paramedics, doctors, nurses and police colleagues looking after him at this time," he said.
"In the face of appalling violence that has no place in modern Ireland, their bravery and selfless dedication to service is an enduring reminder that for every individual determined to tear us apart, there are hundreds more committed to defending our peace and all those who live under it."
Justice Minister Simon Harris also condemned the attack.
“The shooting of a PSNI officer in Omagh is utterly deplorable and completely shocking to people across this island, all the more so as it took place in the presence of young people,” he said.
“My first thoughts this evening are with the officer, his family and police colleagues as well with as the health professionals in Altnagelvin Hospital.
“I’ve been briefed by the Garda Commissioner and An Garda Síochána are of course providing all possible support to their PSNI colleagues. I remain in close contact with them.”
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