Children 'ran for cover in sheer terror' as horrific shooting of DCI John Caldwell unfolded at sports complex
CHILDREN "ran for cover in sheer terror" as the horrific shooting of DCI John Caldwell unfolded at a sports complex near Omagh.
Many young people were training at the Youth Sport Omagh site at Killyclogher last night when the gunmen struck.
The off-duty police officer had just finished coaching an under-15’s football team from Beragh Swifts FC when he was shot four times by two gunmen while placing footballs into the boot of his car.
Mr Caldwell’s young son was by his side when he was shot.
About 15 children were at the Youth Sports complex at the time of the shooting, Omagh High School principal told BBC Talkback.
Principal Christos Gaitatzis said "Two of our pupils were next to the son of John, helping him to get sporting equipment out of his car and they saw everything that happened when he was shot initially and tried to run away as quickly as possible.
"It was not an attack only to a brilliant guy who was helping the kids in a coaching session there but also the youngsters."
The children had been left "numb" by what they had witnessed and he had been "sickened to the stomach" by the news.
"I can only imagine how difficult it must be for the youngsters this morning, waking up in the aftershock of what they experienced last night," he told BBC Radio Ulster.
"I feel that those people affected here last night were my children, were my family.
"We really need to get together as a community in order to make sure that these types of instances, that contain violence in the most heinous way I can describe, have to be pushed away from our community.
"(We have to) make sure that those individuals are caught and isolated out of our community to make sure that Omagh remains the town that it always has been - a town that is together, is coming together at all times, especially during difficult circumstances like this."
Some pupils from Omagh High School were at the sports complex at the time of the shooting of an off-duty police officer in Omagh last night.— Niall McCracken (@Niall_journo) February 23, 2023
Principal Christos Gaitatzis said that he was "sickened to the stomach" by the news and that pupils and parents were “numb”. @BBCNewsNI pic.twitter.com/qf5lniAnF7
As well as the Beragh Swifts FC team, there were also dozens of young people and coaches from Omagh Harriers Athletic Club and Carrickmore Ladies GAA team, who were also training at the facility.
PSNI Assistant chief constable Mark McEwan told of the chaos that ensued as the shots rang out at the complex.
"There were many other young people, children, awaiting pick-up by their parents," he said.
"Those children ran for cover in sheer terror towards the centre."
In a statement today, Beragh Swifts FC said "due to the reported incident at our youth training last night all club activities have been suspended until further notice".
"Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected."
Antoinette McKeown, chief executive officer of Sport NI, also said the attack at the Omagh sports complex was "abhorrent".
"Violent and brutal acts such as these are to be condemned in any circumstances, however to target a sporting coach in front of young people is simply abhorrent," she said.
"Sport would not exist without volunteers, and we value the diversity and contribution of every person who gives their time to enrich lives through sport.
"Sport is a powerful means of uniting people and we deplore this mindless attack on a valued member of our sporting community.
"We know the entire sporting community will be united in solidarity, and our thoughts are with the officer, and his family and colleagues at this difficult time."