Republican Pat Fitzpatrick shot in Belfast but jammed gun spares his life
Prominent Belfast republican Pat Fitzpatrick escaped death after a gunman’s weapon jammed during a botched hit at the weekend.
Fitzpatrick was shot once in the back as he made his way to the home of a relative of murdered IRA commander Gerard ‘Jock’ Davison in east Belfast's Short Strand at about 7.45pm on Saturday. However, a bulletproof vest he was wearing took the force of the blast.
Sources say that after hearing a bang, he threw himself to the ground. It is believed that as he lay helpless, he heard a gun being cocked, indicating the weapon had jammed, so he jumped up and fled.
Sources say the gunman did not give chase as Fitzpatrick, who is in his late fifties, made his way to the home of another close relative of Mr Davison who also lives nearby.
Fitzpatrick, who also survived an attempt on his life in 1988, was taken to the hospital where he was treated for a back injury.
It is understood police later seized the bulletproof vest and his coat.
It is believed Fitzpatrick had received no recent warnings that his life might be at risk.
Sources said republicans are carrying out their own investigation and that “they are looking at all angles” including those with “past grudges” and “drug dealers”.
In August 2015 Fitzpatrick was named in court as a suspect in the killing of Kevin McGuigan (53) outside his Short Strand home that same month. Friends say he has denied any involvement.
McGuigan was suspected of involvement in Davison’s murder in May 2015 as he walked through the Markets area of south Belfast, about a mile away from the scene of Saturday's shooting.
Police blamed members of the Provisional IRA and Action Against Drugs for the McGuigan killing but said there was no information to suggest it had been sanctioned or directed at a senior level in the republican movement.
Fitzpatrick was arrested at his west Belfast home days after the McGuigan killing. It later emerged that during a police raid he attempted to escape through a window with a Glock pistol. At the time he said he had the weapon to “protect his family”.
It has been suggested that Fitzpatrick continued to feel under threat.
The McGuigan killing sparked a political crisis with the DUP warning Sinn Féin faced expulsion from the executive if the IRA was found to be involved. Sinn Féin denied any suggestion of IRA involvement.
On Sunday night the party’s policing spokesperson Gerry Kelly condemned the latest attack.
“There is no place for guns in our society and those responsible for the attack must be taken off the streets and should face due process in the courts,” he said.
Justice Minister Naomi Long described the shooting as “a disgusting and reckless attack that could have resulted in loss of life".
“Such actions have no place anywhere in our community,” she added.
Police carried out searches in the Short Strand area on Sunday morning.
A spokesman said: “Guns have no place in our community.
“We are fortunate that we are not dealing with a fatality today following this disgraceful attack in which a firearm was discharged in a residential area in the early evening."
The spokesman added that those involved “do not represent our communities”.