Sunday 30 April 2017

Bulletproof vest saved life of PSNI officer in gun attack

Police forensics officers examine the area around a sealed-off petrol station in north Belfast following the shooting of a police officer. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Police forensics officers examine the area around a sealed-off petrol station in north Belfast following the shooting of a police officer. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Claire O'Boyle

Detectives investigating the attempted murder of a policeman in Northern Ireland last night made two more arrests.

The men, aged 30 and 39, were detained in west Belfast in connection with the petrol station forecourt shooting of a young officer in north Belfast.

A 36-year-old man arrested in the wake of Sunday's shooting remained in custody last night.

The community officer was shot three times in the arm and commanders believe his body armour may have saved him from further harm.

Detectives believe the officer may have been saved by his bulletproof vest after the garage was riddled with gunshots during the suspected dissident gun attack.

Police believe the gunman may have been lying in wait across the busy Crumlin Road before opening fire on the packed forecourt with a high-velocity rifle as families went about their business on Sunday.

Appeal

They are now appealing for the public's help in finding the car that they believed was used in the attack.

After firing as many as nine or 10 shots, the gunman is thought to have made his getaway in an Audi car at around 7.30pm.

Chief constable George Hamilton said police expected CCTV footage would be collected from the garage and forensic officers spent much of yesterday at the scene.

Mr Hamilton described the attack, believed to have been carried out by dissident republicans, as reckless and despicable.

"We as police officers are citizens in uniform and this officer was a member of the community," he said.

"He was attacked, but other members of the community were at massive risk as well.

"The people who did this don't care who they could have murdered, albeit though it was clear the attack was aimed at the police officer on duty.

Read more: 'The work of cowards' - Police officer hospitalised after drive-by dissident shooting, one arrest made

"It's very fortunate that we're not conducting a murder investigation."

The injured officer is believed to have been hit three times in his arm and spent three hours in theatre at the Royal Victoria Hospital overnight on Sunday.

He will need more surgery in the future. Police said he is "recovering well".

Police also believe the officer's ballistics vest, which has been taken away for testing, may have been struck.

Early indications suggest the gunman lay in wait for his target at an empty car park across the road from the garage.

Irish Independent

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