Shotgun murder of Belfast man Ray Johnston in front of children stuns community
A man has been killed in front of young children in a horrific shotgun attack in Northern Ireland.
It's understood the victim, named locally as Ray Johnston, was in his late 20s and was blasted in the chest in the living room of a house at Glenbawn Avenue in Poleglass, west Belfast.
Police were called to the scene just before 8pm and up to 30 officers quickly flooded the area as a cordon was established.
A crowd of shocked residents, including a number of young children, also gathered.
A police helicopter hovered overhead and an ambulance was at the scene.
It's understood the victim's girlfriend was in the house at the time of the murder, and that Mr Johnston had a young son.
West Belfast Sinn Fein MP Paul Maskey described the attack as "horrifying".
"It is a brutal attack that was carried out in front of young children," he said.
"This has to be condemned outright.
"There is no call for this, it is truly shocking and horrifying.
"The community is horrified. This action has to be stopped immediately.
"My thoughts are with the man's family."
He continued: "I'm not sure why this person has been attacked.
"What I do know is people are working for peace, and have been for some time.
"This action is totally uncalled for and should be left in the past. There is not a place for it."
Sinn Fein councillor Stephen Magennis said the community was "stunned and outraged" by the murder.
"I have spoken to some of the victim's family and friends and they are obviously devastated and in a state of shock," he said.
"There can be absolutely no justification for this murder, which was carried out in the most brutal fashion.
"The people carrying out these attacks are bringing nothing but death and destruction.
"They need to be condemned and should get off the backs of this community."
It is the second murder in Poleglass in 18 months after 43-year-old father Joe O'Reilly was shot dead in October 2016.
SDLP councillors Tim Atwood and Brian Heading also hit out at last night's killing.
"I completely condemn those responsible," Mr Atwood said.
"Those who think they can take the lives of others into their own hands are wrong.
"Leaving a family and a community paralysed with fear that this could happen on their doorstep is wrong."
Mr Heading added: "The entire community in west Belfast is in shock this evening. These are scenes that we thought we had left far behind us.
"These thugs cannot be allowed to bully this strong community into silence.
"They cannot dominate us, we cannot let them."
Friends were quick to pay tribute to Mr Johnston on social media.
One commented: "Absolutely horrible. Rest easy Ray Johnston, you were a great friend and gentleman. Will never forget some of the craic had over the many, many years."
Another said: "Can't believe it. Rest easy Ray Johnston you were a true gent."