Wednesday, 24 Apr 2024

Northern Irish cop shot as he stood next to his teen son

An off-duty policeman was last night fighting for his life after being shot by gunmen as he helped train his son’s football team. Gunmen believed to be from the New IRA targeted Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell at the sports complex in Omagh, Co Tyrone, on Wednesday evening.

The 48-year-old officer, who was standing next to his son, ran but was blasted from behind and collapsed to the floor as shots from the masked attackers ­continued to ring out.

Children screamed in terror as adults shouted at them to run away.

On Thursday night Mr Caldwell was in a critical but stable condition.

Police said the New IRA were their “primary focus” and swooped on Thursday to arrest three men, aged 38, 45 and 47 in Omagh and Coalisland.

Chief constable Simon Byrne said: “We are shocked and angered by Thursday night’s brazen and calculated attack.

“John is a father, husband and ­colleague, and a valued and active member of his community.

He said Mr Caldwell has been a police officer for 26 years, adding: “Our thoughts are with John and his family as he fights for his life in ­hospital.”

Assistant Chief Constable Mark McEwan said there were “many other young people” waiting to be picked up by their parents when the attack on Mr Caldwell took place.

He said: “Those children ran for cover in sheer terror towards the ­centre. John’s own young son was with him at the time and witnessed the shooting.

The trauma inflicted on this young boy is just horrific and he will never forget seeing his dad shot ­multiple times.

Mr Caldwell is a familiar face on the TV news in Northern Ireland and is accustomed to giving interviews.

One of the high-profile investigations he headed up was the murder of PSNI officer Ronan Kerr, also in Omagh. The 25-year-old recently graduated police recruit died when a booby trap bomb detonated under his car outside his home in 2011.

In December Mr Caldwell was involved in the investigation following the murder of Natalie McNally, 32.

Ms McNally, who was 15 weeks pregnant, was stabbed at her home in Lurgan, Co Armagh.

Earlier in December, Mr Caldwell took on the case of Mark Lovell, shot a number of times at close range while in his car outside his home in Newry.

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