Belfast Telegraph

Police chief Hamilton: Gunmen likely 'hiding behind fencing' across from north Belfast petrol station

Hamilton: Political instability does not legitimise officer shooting

By Claire Williamson

Northern Ireland's police chief has said gunmen who injured a PSNI officer at a busy petrol station in north Belfast were likely hiding behind fencing across the road when shots were fired.

The shooting happened at Edenderry filling station on the Crumlin Road at around 7.30pm on Sunday.

The community officer was hit three times in the right arm after up to 10 shots were fired in a suspected dissident republican murder bid.

His body armour may have saved him from further harm.

He was rushed to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast where he is in a stable condition.

The gunshot wounds caused significant damage to his arm. He was in theatre for over three hours overnight and will have further surgery in the days ahead.

Chief Constable full statement on officer shooting in north Belfast  

PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton said the petrol station was sprayed with automatic gunfire during the attack, putting "other members of the community at massive risk".

"The people who did this did not care who they murdered last night, albeit it was clear the attack was aimed at the police officers on duty."

Mr Hamilton spoke to the media after visiting the wounded officer in hospital. He said he believed a high velocity rifle was used in the attack. No weapon has been recovered.

He said it was a "completely reckless" attack and described "multiple strike marks on the forecourt" of the filling station.

Mr Hamilton said it was unlikely that shots were fired from the Audi vehicle recovered by police after the attack. He said it was more likely shots were fired from "behind fencing across from the garage" as two officers emerged from the shop.

The Crumlin Road remains closed while officers investigate.

A 36-year-old man, who was arrested on Sunday night, is in custody.

Praising his officer, Mr Hamilton said he never ceases to be amazed by their "bravery and professionalism". He said the officer was "in good spirits".

Mr Hamilton said the current political crisis and instability "does not legitimise" the attack.

"The use of violence for any sort of political objectives hasn't worked in the past and it is certainly not going to work in the future. We will not be deterred from our public service.

"We are also relentless in pursuing them to lock them up and take them before the courts."

Speaking earlier he told the BBC: "This is an attack on the entire community, people walking from the forecourt to their cars with bullets whizzing round them and striking the garage forecourt."

"Incidents of this nature don't happen ad hoc or in an opportunistic way," he said.

"We'd be pretty convinced this is a planned operation to attack a police officer.

"But it was actually an attack on the whole community - there were people filling their cars on that garage forecourt.

Speaking on Sunday night, PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said their main line of enquiry is violent dissident republicans .

He said: "It is totally unnecessary, appalling and needs to be condemned by all sides of this community."

Mr Hamilton appealed for anyone who witnessed anything suspicious in the area to come forward to police immediately.

"Particularly if you saw an Audi type vehicle at the filling station around 7.30pm. Did you see anyone suspicious? Did you hear the shots? Did you see anyone running away?

"This wasn't just an attack upon the police, it was very clearly an attack upon the community, other lives could easily have been lost tonight.

"We assure everyone that every resource we have will be turned to face this now."

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