Northern Ireland news

Eyewitness describes terror as senior PSNI officer shot while coaching youth football team near Omagh

The shooting took place at Youth Sport Omagh at Killyclogher. Picture by Jason McCartan
Connla Young and Paul Ainsworth

An eyewitness has described the terrifying scenes when a senior police officer was shot several times in front of young people he had been coaching at a sports centre in Co Tyrone.

The off-duty officer was targeted at Youth Sport Omagh at Killyclogher, near Omagh, on Wednesday evening.

It is believed he was training a youth football team at the time.

Omagh Harriers Athletic Club and Carrickmore Ladies GAA team were also training at the facility when the shooting took place.

Police confirmed this morning they have launched an attempted murder investigation.

Temporary Detective Chief Superintendent Eamonn Corrigan said: “The serving officer was shot a number of times at a sports complex in the Killyclogher Road area of Omagh, just before 8pm on Wednesday, 22nd February.

“He has been taken to hospital and is in a critical but stable condition.

“Our investigation is now underway and I would appeal to anyone who was in the area and witnessed what happened or could help with our enquiries to make contact with police on 101."

An eyewitness told WeAreTyrone how they heard what "sounded like a series of fireworks".

“And then we realised that people were starting to shout and run away from it. And then somebody shouted that ‘he had a gun’.

“We started to run away from the track and up onto the pitches, and then we realised there was an injured party on the track.

“People began shouting: 'Can someone get an ambulance?'

“We could see that one person was down on the track, injured, And then he was getting attention from first aiders and the doctors. Then the ambulance came in about five minutes.

“There were wee kids on the pitch.

“It’s very shocking… Terrible.

“I thought we were past this.”

Police said: "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. More details will be issued when available." 

Chief constable Simon Byrne later said he was in a critical but stable condition.

An Garda Síochána said it is "currently responding to an ongoing incident which took place earlier this evening in Northern Ireland".

"We are working closely in cooperation with our counterparts in the PSNI," a spokesperson said.

"An Garda Síochána has intensified patrolling in border counties."

In 2011 PSNI constable Ronan Kerr died after a bomb exploded under his car in Omagh.

Mr Byrne said his thoughts are with the injured officer, his family and his colleagues.

"We will relentlessly pursue those responsible," he said.

"They have nothing to offer the community."


Ulster Unionist Assembly member Tom Elliott said the officer was coaching young people when the attack took place.

"My understanding is he was coaching young people at a local sports complex and I think they were nearing the end of the session or maybe at the end of the session and there would obviously have been some of these young people around at that time and I am told that two masked gunmen walked up and shot him a number of times," Mr Elliott told BBC's Nolan Live.

"To see that happen in front of you for young people is indescribable almost, and I'm sure will have a lasting impact on them.

"At this stage clearly we're all thinking of this police officer and his immediate family and we're just hoping and praying that the officer will get better."

Liam Kelly, chair of the Police Federation for Northern Ireland, which represents rank and file officers, branded as "barbaric and cold-blooded" the gun attack.

"It's understood two gunmen were involved in the attack. The injured officer was shot a number of times whilst he coached young persons playing football," he said.

"This was a callous, cold-blooded and barbaric attempted murder on an off-duty officer.

"The officer is well known and respected in the area and plays an active role in the community. He is also well known within policing circles and is highly regarded by his colleagues.

"The people who carried out this cowardly and shocking act must be quickly identified and apprehended and I would appeal to the community to assist the police in whatever way they can.

"My thoughts, and those of all police officers, are with our colleague and his family. The police family is strong and resilient, and we'll be there for him and his family in this dreadful hour of need."


There was a heavy police presence in the area along with a PSNI helicopter. Picture by Jason McCartan


The shooting has also been condemned by politicians across the UK and Ireland.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he was appalled by the "disgraceful shooting of an off-duty police officer in Omagh".

"My thoughts are with the officer and his family," he said.

"There is no place in our society for those who seek to harm public servants protecting communities."

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar condemned the "grotesque act of attempted murder".

"Our thoughts are with the injured officer, his family, colleagues and friends at this difficult time," he said.

"I call on anyone with information about it to share it with the PSNI."

Sinn Féin vice president Michelle O'Neill said it was an "outrageous and shameful attack".

"My immediate thoughts are with the officer and his family," she said.

"I unreservedly condemn this reprehensible attempt to murder a police officer."

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson described the shooting as "terrible news from Omagh".

"Our heart goes out to the family of this courageous police officer and to his colleagues," he said.

"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."

Former Stormont justice minister Naomi Long said her thoughts were with the officer, his family, colleagues and all those affected by the shooting.

The Alliance Party leader branded the attack an "evil act of cowardice".

UUP leader Doug Beattie said: "A man is fighting for his life, supported by our society's finest, our doctors and nurses. I pray he survives.

"There will be plenty to say in the days and weeks ahead about why anyone thinks they have any authority - moral, political or otherwise - to do something as cowardly as shoot a police officer. For tonight, my thoughts are with the officer, his family, his colleagues and those who are looking after him."

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said it was a "chilling reminder of the horrifying violence that criminal gangs are willing to visit on the people of Northern Ireland". 

“My thoughts and the thoughts of my SDLP colleagues are with the man and with the paramedics, doctors, nurses and police colleagues looking after him at this time," he said.

"In the face of appalling violence that has no place in modern Ireland, their bravery and selfless dedication to service is an enduring reminder that for every individual determined to tear us apart, there are hundreds more committed to defending our peace and all those who live under it."

He added: “Those behind this attack are committed to the fallacy that they are at war with the British establishment. Let me say very clearly to them that they are not. As I have said before, their fight is not with the British Government or the PSNI. Their fight is with the people of Ireland who have chosen peace. And it is a fight that they will never, never win."

West Tyrone SDLP MLA Daniel McCrossan said the people of Omagh "have shown immense strength, compassion and grace in the worst of times". He added: "This is another moment to rededicate ourselves to peace and resistance against violence."


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