Police fired shots in broad daylight after being attacked with boulders during a disturbance in a Co Down village.
The shots were discharged during a confrontation between officers and a number of men in Carrowdore yesterday afternoon.
According to local sources, police were responding to a crime report when they came under attack.
At one stage boulders were hurled at the officers, who discharged shots to prevent the trouble escalating.
Four men have been arrested in connection with the disturbance which took place at around 12.35pm at New Road.
The Police Ombudsman has been informed and has begun an investigation into the incident.
Alderman Ronnie Ferguson, who lives in Carrowdore and is a member of Ards District Policing Partnership, said he was confident police had acted appropriately.
“Officers do not carry firearms as an ornament — they are there to protect life and limb,” he said.
“If they or a member of the public were being threatened in any way, shape or form, they were quite correct to use their firearm.
“Carrowdore is a very quiet place, and this took place on the outskirts of the village.
“However, to have any sort of trouble in our midst is not wanted, and anyone who brings this kind of trouble is not wanted either.”
Meanwhile the DPP chairman, Angus Carson, said: “These officers were protecting themselves and the public and I back them 100%.
“No police officer would draw a firearm unless it was necessary and they felt threatened.”
The area’s DUP MLA Jim Shannon said he believed police acted correctly.
“They used minimal force to defuse a very difficult situation which potentially could have been very serious,” he said.
A spokesman for the Police Ombudsman confirmed that an investigation had been launched and appealed for witnesses to come forward.
“All discharges of firearms are automatically referred by the PSNI to the Police Ombudsman's Office for independent investigation,” he said.
“Police Ombudsman investigators are at the scene and are conducting inquiries in the area.
“Anyone who was in the area at the time and may have seen what happened is asked to contact the Police Ombudsman's freephone witness appeal line on 0800 032 7880.”