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Irish Mirror
Irish Mirror
Anita McSorley & Conor Coyle

Omagh shooting: Children 'ran for their lives' as masked gunmen opened fire on John Caldwell

A school principal in Omagh has described the harrowing moment masked gunmen opened fire after a sports training session.

John Caldwell, an off-duty senior PSNI officer, was shot multiple times as he packed footballs into the back of his car at Omagh Youth Sport last night.

He was along with his son and two other children when he was shot.

READ MORE: Shot PSNI Detective John Caldwell recently gave evidence before trial of Gerry 'The Monk' Hutch

Omagh High School principal Christos Gaitatzi spoke to BBC Radio Ulster today as he described the moment the young people witnessed the horror shooting, Belfast Live reports.

He said: "It was very difficult because the children were just next to the person that was shot. They were right beside him, two of our pupils were next to the son of John and were helping him to get the sports equipment out of his car.

"They saw everything that happened when he was shot initially and tried to run away from there as quickly as they could."

An armed police officer on duty near the sports complex this morning (PA)

Gaitatzis said there was widespread shock among the school community today.

"Some kids did not make it to school but we talked to them at home with their parents.

"Absolutely shocking, it was an attack not only on a brilliant guy who was helping the kids in a coaching session, it was an attack on youngsters who attend the school.

"It was an absolutely disgusting, inhumane and heinous attack. They thought they were going to a safe place to do a training session as they do every Wednesday night."

Having took up the role of principal at the school three years ago, he added that he was in disbelief at what had happened.

"I'm in disbelief because I came to a Northern Ireland that was supposed to be completely different than I used to watch on TV," he said.

It comes as three men have been arrested in connection with the shooting.

The victim, Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell, ran a short distance and fell to the ground where the attackers continued to fire at him, police have said.

PSNI Detective Chief Superintendent John Caldwell (PA Wire/PA Images)

Mr Caldwell remains in a critical but stable condition in hospital after the attack.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said he was “shocked” at the “awful, grotesque, vicious” attack and offered assistance to their counterparts in the PSNI.

“I know John, a very dedicated police officer giving good service to the people of Northern Ireland. And all of us hope and pray that he makes a speedy recovery,” Mr Harris told reporters in Dublin.

When asked about the impact of the attack on gardai, Mr Harris said: “Policing on this island is a collective effort between ourselves and the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

“A previous commissioner to myself said ‘although the colours of our uniforms are different, we’re all cut from the one cloth’. There is a comradeship between the two organisations and all of us feel very much the shock of these grim events from last night.”

There has been widespread condemnation from various political, civic and religious groups.


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