Chief Constable condemns automatic gunfire on busy forecourt

PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton
PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton

The Chief Constable has said that an attack which injured one of his officers saw automatic gunfire sprayed across a busy garage forecourt in Belfast.

George Hamilton said the Crumlin Road attack on Sunday evening was “completely reckless”.

The gunman fire from a car and hit the 36-year-old PSNI officer twice in the arm at 7.30pm. His condition is described as stable although he has already undergone surgery and will require more.

Mr Hamilton told the BBC people were filling their cars with fuel when the gunman opened fire and there were “multiple strike marks on the forecourt”.

“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 - completely reckless,” he said.

“Whatever people’s motivation for doing this, it is just crazy.”

The officer has at least two gunshot wounds on his arm though his injuries may have been lessened by body armour, he added.

Mr Hamilton said such incidents “don’t happen on ad hoc or opportunistic way. So we’d be pretty convinced that this is a planned operation”.

Justice Minister Claire Sugden said there remained a significant terrorist threat “particularly against PSNI officers and indeed prison officers and that threat hasn’t gone away with political instability, if anything it has been heightened.

“I had voiced my concerns at the outset of all the political instability that we need to be vigilant against this type of attack because I do think there will be people who will take that opportunity.”

Police Federation Chairman Mark Lindsay said it was “an appalling act” and condemned it in “the strongest possible terms”.

“This attack on the life of an officer is a stark reminder of the determination on the part of terrorists to murder and maim Police Officers,” he said.

“They believe that by causing great grief to a family they are somehow advancing their warped and outdated plan. The wider community will be outraged by this attack on one of their police Officers.

“The Police serve the entire community and wounding one individual is an attack on the entire community.”

Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly also condemned what he described as a “drive by” attack.

He added: “I hope that the injured officer will make a full and speedy recovery.

“Those responsible for this attack are the same people who are attacking the local community. They have absolutely nothing to offer society and need to call a halt to these activities immediately.

“I would call on anyone with information on this incident to bring it forward to the PSNI.”

Alliance North Belfast Councillor Nuala McAllister said the people of North Belfast do not want to see guns return to the streets.

“For too long North Belfast suffered at the hands of violent people who had no mandate whatsoever,” she said. “The shooting of this police officer on the Crumlin Road is a sad reminder of the dark days the people of the area do not want to have return. These gunmen have no cause that can excuse their attempt to take a life and must be condemned by all.”