Crowds rally against paramilitary violence after detective shot in Northern Ireland

Crowds have gathered to rally against paramilitary violence in Co Tyrone in an act of solidarity for an off-duty policeman who was shot by masked men.

Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell remains in a stable but critical condition in hospital following the attack on Wednesday night in Omagh.

The senior officer was shot multiple times in front of young people he had been coaching at a sports centre just before 8pm in Co Tyrone.

The attack happened while DCI Caldwell was loading footballs into the boot of his car when the two men opened fire, according to Assistant Chief Constable (ACC) Mark McEwan of Police Service Northern Ireland (PSNI).

Five men have been arrested in connection with the shooting.

Police say the dissident republican group, the New IRA, is the "primary focus" of the force's attempted murder investigation.

On Saturday morning, crowds of people flocked to Beragh, around eight miles from Omagh, in a vigil for Mr Caldwell.

They came together for a walk of solidarity from the Beragh Swifts ground for DCI Caldwell, who is a volunteer youth coach at the football club.

Later on, people took part in a rally outside Omagh Courthouse to unite against paramilitary violence following the shooting of the police officer, carrying placards which read: "No going back".

Beragh Swifts chairman Richard Lyons said the community had garnered support for their friend and for all the children that have been affected by the attack.

He said: "It's been a very difficult time for the club; it's been a very difficult time for the community."

"John worked tirelessly for this club, he's no different to any other volunteer... the contribution that John gives to this club is phenomenal, and this is an unbelievably difficult time for us all."

Read more:
Police say 'children ran in sheer terror' after off-duty officer was shot

Speaking at a news conference on Thursday, ACC McEwan said that DCI Caldwell ran a short distance after the first shots were fired and that his attackers continued to fire as he fell to the floor.

"There were many other young people, children, awaiting pick-up by their parents. Those children ran for cover in sheer terror towards the centre," ACC McEwan added.

He said DCI Caldwell's young son was also present, adding: "The trauma inflicted on this young boy is just horrific and he will never forget seeing his dad shot multiple times.

"The gunmen fired from close range in the busy sports training area, which could also quite easily have killed or seriously injured children who were present at the time of the shooting."