An off-duty police officer is in a critical but stable condition following a shooting in Omagh, Co Tyrone on Wednesday night, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has confirmed.
Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell was shot multiple times by a masked man in front of a group of young people he had been coaching, according to the PSNI's Assistant Chief Constable Mark McEwan.
Caldwell's son was among the young people who witnessed the shooting, according to the PSNI.
"The officer's condition remains critical but stable," McEwan told BBC Radio Ulster's Good Morning Ulster program.
The PSNI said in a statement on Wednesday that the shooting took place in the Killyclogher Road just before 8 p.m.
“One man, a serving police officer, has been taken to hospital for treatment after being injured in a shooting incident at a sports complex just before 8pm this evening," the PSNI said in a statement.
Police statement regarding the shooting in Omagh this evening. pic.twitter.com/qVLC0OvZQb— Police Service NI (@PoliceServiceNI) February 22, 2023
The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) said it received a 999 call at 8:02 pm following reports of an incident in the Slievard area of Killyclogher.
“NIAS despatched a Rapid Response Paramedic, an 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.”
The Police Federation for Northern Ireland said: “We totally condemn this appalling & barbaric act of violence on an off-duty officer in Omagh.
“Our thoughts are with our colleague & his family. These gunmen offer nothing to society. Anyone with info should come forward.”
We totally condemn this appalling & barbaric act of violence on an off-duty officer in Omagh. Our thoughts are with our colleague & his family. These gunmen offer nothing to society. Anyone with info should come forward. @ChiefConPSNI @NIPolicingBoard @PoliceServiceNI— Police Federation for Northern Ireland (@PoliceFedforNI) February 22, 2023
It is believed the suspects fled across the border to Ireland, prompting a response from An Garda Síochána. “We are working closely in cooperation with our counterparts in the PSNI,” a Garda spokesperson told the Independent.
A Garda spokesperson further informed The Journal that gardaí have “intensified patrolling in border counties."
A number of politicians have responded to what is the first gun attack on a serving police officer in Northern Ireland since 2017.
Michelle O'Neill, the Vice President of Sinn Féin, condemned the "reprehensible attempt to murder a police officer."
Terrible news this evening of an off-duty police officer being shot in Kilyclogher, Omagh. This is an outrageous and shameful attack. My immediate thoughts are with the officer and his family.— Michelle O’Neill (@moneillsf) February 22, 2023
I unreservedly condemn this reprehensible attempt to murder a police officer.
Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, head of the Democratic Uninonist Party (DUP), condemned the "cowards responsible for this."
Terrible news from Omagh tonight. Our heart goes out to the family of this courageous police officer and to his colleagues. 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. https://t.co/2nvmxmPu4j— Jeffrey Donaldson MP (@J_Donaldson_MP) February 22, 2023
Colum Eastwood, head of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), said the people behind the attack are in a "fight they will never, never win."
The people behind this attack think they're at war - well they're not. Their fight isn't with any government, any police service or anyone else - it's with the people of Ireland who have chosen peace. And it's a fight they will never, never win.— Colum Eastwood 🇺🇦 (@columeastwood) February 22, 2023
Doug Beattie, leader of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), offered the officer's family and colleagues his thoughts in the wake of the "grim news."
This is grim news. My thoughts are with the officer, his family and his colleagues. 🙏 https://t.co/7dVqfkUGXX— Doug Beattie (@BeattieDoug) February 22, 2023
Naomi Long, head of the Alliance Party, described the incident as an "evil act of cowardice."
Disturbing news of unfolding events in Omagh this evening.
My thoughts and those of my @allianceparty colleagues are with the officer, his family, colleagues, and all those affected by this evil act of cowardice.@ChiefConPSNI @PoliceServiceNI @PoliceFedforNI https://t.co/4hHgNaymyt— Naomi Long MLA (@naomi_long) February 22, 2023
Northern Ireland's Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris said those responsible for the "shocking incident" must be brought to justice.
I am aware of the shocking incident in Omagh tonight and am being kept up to date. My immediate thoughts are with the PSNI officer and his family. Those responsible for such horror must be brought to justice. https://t.co/1UV9Tp8OV9— Chris Heaton-Harris MP (@chhcalling) February 22, 2023
Tánaiste Micheál Martin said he was "shocked and appalled" by the shooting.
Shocked and appalled by tonight’s shooting of an off-duty PSNI officer in Omagh.
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.— Micheál Martin (@MichealMartinTD) February 22, 2023