A SENIOR off-duty police officer was shot up to four times by two gunmen in front of his young son during a ‘barbaric’ attack in Northern Ireland last night.
Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell was putting footballs in the back of his car after coaching children football at Youth Sport Omagh when he was ambushed by the two masked men at around 8pm.
After they fired multiple shots, the father tried to run but fell to the ground, where the pair continued to fire at him as screaming children ran to safety.
PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Mark McEwan said, “Last night at approximately 8 O’Clock, at the Youth Sport Centre in Killyclogher Road, Omagh, whilst John [Caldwell] was putting footballs into the boot of his car, and accompanied by his young son, two gun men approached and we believe both have fired multiple shots.
“John has ran a short distance and he has fallen to the ground. As he is on the ground, the gunmen have continued to fire at him.
“The absolutely callous nature of this attack, in a crowded space, there are children and parents in the vicinity. We saw many of those young people and children running in sheer terror to get to safety.”
Ballinamallard United, in a statement said, “Thinking of DCI John Caldwell and his family today. John is a family man who was out coaching young 12 year olds and bringing only good to the community. We also think of all those young players who witness the incident.
Former First Minister Arlene Foster said, “Let’s all remember John and his family. I pray for him, his family and the clinicians caring for him. This will be a long road. Unfortunately this is not the first time a police officer was shot in front of their child. Witnessing your father being shot says with you. Let’s make last night the last time a child has to witness this by removing the cowardly terrorists from our streets.”
The suspected terrorists, who police believe are from the New IRA dissident republican group responsible for murdering the journalist Lyra McKee, 29, fled in a car that was later found burnt out.
Mr Caldwell is a high profile officer who has led a number of major investigations, including taking a leading role in the murder probe following the killing of Natalie McNally in Lurgan in December.
He was taken to Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry where he is in a critical but stable condition. An attempted murder investigation is now underway, with Garda in the South assisting with the hunt for the gunmen amid suspicions they may have fled across the border.
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