A man shot dead by the PSNI at a checkpoint in County Down was unarmed
at the time, it has been revealed.
23-year-old Steven Colwell from Cullybackey outside Ballymena, was
killed on Church Street in Ballynahinch, County Down, at around 11.30am
on Sunday. He was shot twice in a hail of gunfire. Colwell was
reported to have been driving a car stolen earlier near Ballykinlar in
The PSNI are refusing to disclose the exact circumstances of the
shooting or what prompted them to open fire, but it is believed
British forces suspected dissident republicans were travelling in
Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan has begun an inquiry and investigators
from her office spent the rest of the day at the scene.
They are trying to determine whether a warning was issued before
opening fire, and whether the car was considered to pose an immediate
The two women and three men who were in the silver-coloured BMW car
along with Mr Colwell were released yesterday on bail after being
Reports of the involvement of a second vehicle could not be confirmed.
The ombudsman's office would not comment beyond an appeal for
It is not the first time the PSNI has killed a person at a vehicle
checkpoint. County Armagh man Neil McConville ied in hospital after
officers shot him when his car failed to stop at a checkpoint near
Lisburn, County Antrim, in April 2003.
SDLP Policing Board member Alex Attwood said the latest shooting and
another in which police fired shots at a fleeing vehicle in west
Belfast two weeks ago raised "serious issues" about PSNI policy.
"The use of lethal fire in the circumstances of this case is highly
questionable and on the facts known at present it is very hard to
determine what level of threat existed against the police and other
people who it is reported were at the scene," he said.
"This requires the police to say up front what has happened [and]
any officer on the ground or at command level to be suspended where
"This is an enormous tragedy for the family and it requires an enormous
response from the policing institutions.
"Any wrongdoing must be prosecuted and any other failure must be
up to and corrected."
Local unionist assembly member Jim Wells said: "It is a shock.
"It is the first time something like this has happened in Ballynahinch.
"I'm sure the police would not have opened fire unless they had cause
to do so."
Fr Gerard McCrory, a priest from St Patrick's church in Ballynahinch,
had just finished celebrating Easter Sunday Mass when he went to the
scene. He said he found the victim a few metres from the vehicle and
thought it was a road crash.
"As I looked at the person on the ground it was fairly obvious he
quite close to death," he told a local radio station.
"Just shortly after that I was told there was a shooting incident
apparently there were a couple of cars involved. I did administer to
the man because I had reason to think he belonged to the Catholic
community. Obviously one thinks of the person's family and it's just
dreadful news to get on Easter Sunday."