Inquiry opens after man shot dead by police in Northern Ireland

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The Independent Online

The driver of a suspected stolen car was shot dead by police in Northern Ireland yesterday.

An officer fired several shots as the silver BMW reached a vehicle checkpoint in Ballynahinch, Co Down. Another three men and two women in the car were arrested and taken for questioning.

Security sources said the man had been killed while he was seated in the car at about 11.30am, dampening speculation that he may have been shot as he attempted to flee from the area.

The driver was given first aid at the scene but by the time a priest from a nearby Catholic church arrived, he was already dead. The body was later removed after forensic experts had trawled the area for clues.

The BMW is believed to have travelled from Ballykinlar, about 12 miles away, and may have been heading for Belfast. Officers were alerted and set up a checkpoint in Church Street, outside Ballynahinch police station. Several shots were fired at the car but it remains unclear if the driver tried to break through the roadblock.

Jim Wells, a Democratic Unionist MLA for the area, said the officers had little time to weigh up their options. He said: "Police obviously had to make a split-second decision based on the information they had."

But the SDLP's Alex Attwood demanded answers from the police. "The use of lethal fire in the circumstances of this case is highly questionable and it is very hard to determine what level of threat existed," he said. The Northern Ireland Police ombudsman, Nuala O'Loan, yesterday begun an inquiry to establish whether the shooting was necessary to protect lives.

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