The PSNI officers and civilians who came under gun attack in Derry on Wednesday night were close enough to the gunman that they saw the muzzle flash as the weapon was fired, the city’s top police officer has said.
At least three shots were fired at police officers as they responded to a report of a stolen Renault Clio car on the Glen Road shortly after 9.30pm on Thursday.
One of the shots struck the police car as the officers, and several members of the public who were with them at the time, dived for cover.
A civilian who was helping police recover the stolen car was also with the officers when the gunman opened fire. Dissident republicans have been blamed for the shooting although as yet no group has claimed responsibility.
Chief Superintendent Stephen Martin said the gun attack was a “clear attempt to murder police officers” and added that a number of members of the public who were at the scene “were in the line of fire.”
The senior PSNI officer said: “Not only did they show significant contempt for the lives of police officers but complete recklessness and disregard for the lives of members of the community.
“The officers were accompanied by members of the public when this took place and they were in the line of fire. The officers did see the muzzle flash of the weapon as it was fired.
“Contrast the actions of the police officers who were responding to a call for some assistance, and doing so with professionalism and with a desire to protect the public, with the actions of someone who took it upon themselves to commit murder.”
Chief Supt Martin praised the police officers involved for protecting the public during the gun attack. “There was a number of officers there; both male and female, relatively junior in service. I am immensely proud of the officers. They acted in a professional way and their training kicked in and they showed concern for the members of the public,” he said.
He also warned that similar attacks were likely in the future. “Until they acknowledge that their actions are against the wishes of the people of Northern Ireland, including the majority of the Catholic, nationalist and republican people, who do not support their illegitimate actions, unfortunately we will see incidents like this.