DISSIDENT republicans are suspected to be behind the murder of a pizza delivery man shot dead by a gunman who earlier opened fire on his friends.
Emmett Shiels, 22, whose teenage partner was due to have their first baby, was hit in the stomach in Derry in the early hours yesterday morning.
Republicans belonging to the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) are among the chief suspects in the attack.
Detective chief inspector Frankie Taylor said: “We believe someone was being targeted for an attack but it was not Emmett Shiels, he has purely got caught up and has ended up dead.”
A gang of up to five masked men were involved in an earlier altercation with Mr Shiels’ friends, during which a shot was fired at their car at Abbot’s Walk in Derry.
The victims met Mr Shiels by chance a short distance away, at Lonemoor Road, driving his van. When he drove on and saw the masked men about a mile away in the city’s Creggan estate, he stopped and got out of his van, and was shot.
He died in Altnagelvin Hospital a few miles away.
Mr Taylor added: “He could be said to have been trying to defend his friends. It was a brutal murder... a 22-year-old man with a partner whose child is having a child, it is a very sad case.”
He said the victim and his family were well regarded in the community.
The victim’s foster sister Maureen Wilkinson appealed for help in locking up the killer.
“The person that done this should just hand themselves in for the family’s sake. We don’t want another family to go through what we are going through,” she said.
“He didn’t do anything wrong. I don’t know how they can sleep.”
She added the family was devastated ahead of the birth of his child.
“He will never see his wee baby, he was over the moon when he knew he had a baby,” she said.
It was two hours before police attended the scene because of fears of an ambush.
Community worker Sean McMonagle helped Mr Shiels into an ambulance.
“The family is distraught,” he said.
Foyle SDLP Assembly member Pat Ramsey said he was shocked.
“We all thought there was an end to the troubles. For anyone, the worst nightmare is someone coming to the front door and saying your son has been shot dead,” he said.
Parish priest Father Stephen McLaughlin, who was called to the scene by police at around 3.30am, said the whole community would be shocked by what had happened.
He said: “This is quite brutal, quite horrific. When I heard the news I just felt sick — you are being taken back to a place you thought you had left behind.
“It is going to be a nightmare for this young man’s immediate family and the local community will be shocked.”
Sinn Féin Assembly member Martina Anderson said there was uproar in the community.
“The family are absolutely gutted, the community is in uproar about this,” she said.
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