Three men have been arrested in connection with the shooting of off-duty PSNI officer Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell in Omagh, Co Tyrone last night, Wednesday, February 22.
Three men aged 38, 45, and 47 have been arrested under the Terrorism Act in Omagh and Coalisland in connection with the attempted murder of Caldwell, the Police Service of Northern Ireland confirmed on Thursday, February 23.
The three suspects were being questioned by detectives in Musgrave Serious Crime Suite on Thursday, the PSNI said.
Update by Assistant Chief Constable Mark McEwan on the investigation into the attempted murder of a police officer in Omagh on Wednesday night.
Read more: https://t.co/HCVfOVc2oe pic.twitter.com/Dmg9yqjGWm— Police Service NI (@PoliceServiceNI) February 23, 2023
On Wednesday night, PSNI confirmed that an off-duty officer had been shot in the Killyclogher Road just before 8 pm. The officer, since named as Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell, was transported to the hospital.
Caldwell was in "critical but stable" condition, Assistant Chief Constable for Crime Department Mark McEwan said on Thursday.
"We are closely consulting with John Caldwell’s family, who are understandably shocked at last night’s shooting.
"John is a highly respected senior investigating officer who dedicates himself to service both in supporting victims and families in bringing others to justice. He is also an active member of the Omagh community.
“Last night at approximately 8pm at the youth sports centre in Killyclogher Road, Omagh, when John was putting footballs into the boot of the car, accompanied by his young son, two gunmen approached and we believe both have fired multiple shots.
"John ran a short distance and fell to the ground when the gunmen continued to fire shots at him.
“That shows the absolute callous nature of this attack, and it is utterly disgusting that the gunmen carried out this attempted murder in front of crowds of adults and children.
"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.
“The gunmen fired from close range in the busy sports training area, which could also quite easily have killed or seriously injured children who were present at the time of the shooting.
“Those who carried out this attack were completely reckless in their actions and they had absolutely no regard for the officer who was injured or anyone in the crowd.
“John sustained a number of bullet wounds to his torso and was taken to hospital for treatment to his injuries. He remains in a critical but stable condition this morning and has undergone surgery for his wounds."
McEwan paid tribute to a brave member of the public who administered first aid, while also thanking the ambulance service, saying "If it had not been for their quick actions we might have been looking at something very different this morning."
“We recognise the huge shock and trauma this has caused in the community in Omagh. I know this is not what they want to see happening in their town.”
McEwan added: “The investigation is at an early stage and I would appeal to anyone with information to bring it to police.
"Our main line of enquiry is that violent dissident republicans carried out this vile attack and within that a primary focus is on the New IRA.
“The two gunmen, who were dressed in dark clothing, carried out this cowardly attack and left the scene on foot. At least two other vehicles were struck by their volley of shots. We believe the gunmen fled the scene in a small, dark-coloured vehicle shortly after 8pm. We believe this vehicle was abandoned and set on fire in Racolpa Road, Omagh.
“We want to hear from anyone who was in the area or who witnessed what happened to get in touch with any information that could help with our investigation.
“Likewise, if you have captured dash-cam or mobile footage, please contact officers on 101 quoting reference number 1831 of 22/02/23.
“I would also ask anyone with information to phone 101 or if you would prefer to remain anonymous contact independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”
Elsewhere on Thursday, PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne told reporters that Caldwell is "held in the highest esteem," describing him as a valued and active member of the local community.
Byrne said the thoughts of the PSNI are with Caldwell as he "fights for his life in hospital today."
Caldwell is a senior PSNI officer who has been involved in a number of high-profile cases in Northern Ireland, including the recent investigation into the murder of pregnant woman Natalie McNally before Christmas.
You can watch the PSNI's press conference about the attempted murder of Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell here: