THE PSNI’s attempted murder investigation continues after senior officer Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell was shot several times in Omagh, Co. Tyrone in what is believed to have been a dissident republican attack. PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Mark McEwan said the investigation was looking at links to violent dissident republicans, with a focus on the New IRA.
The high-ranking officer, who has been involved in many high profile investigations, was off-duty at the time of the incident. It took place at around 8pm on Wednesday at a sports complex in the Killyclogher Road area.
Det Insp John Caldwell was coaching a local youth sports team just prior to the attack. Two gunmen shot him several times as he was putting footballs into his car with his son after an under-15 training session in Omagh, Co. Tyrone. His son and several other children witnessed the attack.
Det Ch Insp John Caldwell is reported to got up after being shot several times and warned children away from the area. People in the are fled in terror, according to reports. The officer managed to stagger some 200 metres according to reports, when members of an athletics group came to his aid and called an ambulance.
In the latest update a fourth man has been arrested in connection with the incident. A PSNI statement said: “Detectives investigating the attempted murder of Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell from the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s Major Investigation Team on Wednesday 22nd February at the Killyclogher Road area of Omagh have this morning, Friday 24th February, made a fourth arrest. The man, aged 22 years old was arrested in the Coalisland area under the Terrorism Act and is currently being questioned by detectives in Musgrave Serious Crime Suite.”
The three already arrested are aged 38, 45 and 47. They were apprehended in Omagh and Coalisland, and remain in custody. Two of them, according to the Irish News, were previously questioned by police investigating Constable Ronan Kerr's murder. The Catholic PSNI officer was killed in 2011 after a bomb exploded under his car.
A PSNI spokesperson said that Det Insp Caldwell remained in hospital where he is “in a critical but stable condition”. and is heavily sedated. But he has sustained ‘life-changing’ injuries according to the chairman of Northern Ireland's Police Federation, Liam Kelly. He told the BBC: “He's been involved in coaching with children over a long period of time and this is how he's been rewarded by terrorists - it's an absolute disgrace.”
Politicians across Britain and Ireland condemned the attack, with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak stating: “I am appalled by the disgraceful shooting of an off-duty police officer in Omagh tonight.
“My thoughts are with the officer and his family. There is no place in our society for those who seek to harm public servants protecting communities.”
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar called the attack a “grotesque act”.
“I am appalled by the disgraceful shooting of an off-duty police officer in Omagh,” he said in a statement. “My thoughts are with the officer and his family . . . There is no place in our society for those who seek to harm public servants protecting communities.
“I utterly condemn this grotesque act of attempted murder. I call on anyone with information about it to share it with the PSNI."
Senior politicians including Sinn Féin’s Michelle O'Neill, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson of the DUP, Naomi Long of the Alliance Party, Doug Beattie of the Ulster Unionists and Colum Eastwood of the SDLP issued a joint statement calling it a reprehensible attack by "the enemies of our peace".