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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 April 2006, 17:04 GMT 18:04 UK
Shooting victim's family in plea
Shooting scene
The police shot dead one man at a checkpoint
The family of the 23-year-old man shot dead by police at a checkpoint in Ballynahinch on Sunday have urged the public not to rush to judge him.

Steven Colwell, father of a son aged five, was shot driving a stolen car.

The family said people should "wait until the Police Ombudsman's Office tell us the true facts of what took place" before making judgements.

DUP assembly member Jim Wells said he understood police opened fire because innocent lives were at risk.

However, in their statement to the Press Association, Mr Colwell's family said: "We would ask the general public, before you judge Steven or the family, that you should walk a mile in our shoes."

They added: "Do not judge what happened on the basis of what politicians are speculating."

Police fired a number of shots at the stolen car containing six people after they apparently refused to stop at a checkpoint.

Mr Wells said he understood the police had had to make a split second decision.

He said a pedestrian and a baby in a nearby vehicle had been put in danger by the car.

Mr Colwell, who had an address in Main Street, Cullybackey, but who was originally from west Belfast, died after he was shot in the car he was driving at Church Street, in the town, at 1130 BST on Sunday.

"The vehicle approached Ballynahinch, saw the roadblock - there was one car ahead of it - decided to do a u-turn and turn and go back towards Newcastle," Mr Wells told BBC Radio Ulster.


"In its way was a car with a one-year-old child in it and a pedestrian standing in the street who could not get out of the way.

"The police had to make a split-second decision - do they stop the car or do they allow it to continue with the risk that people's lives were in grave danger?"

Mr Colwell's parents and younger sister are dead, and the PUP's Ken Wilkinson, who is advising Mr Colwell's three brothers, said they had experienced their fair share of grief.

"Steven's family are finding the speculation about what happened in Ballynahinch at the weekend very unhelpful.

"What is worse, they now see that Steven's death seems to be becoming a political football," Mr Wilkinson said.

"We have had a briefing with the Police Ombudsman's office investigators this morning," he added.

"We now know that some of the things that have been said and described as fact are simply untruths."

Three men and two women who were also in the car have been released on bail and have been questioned by the ombudsman who is investigating the incident.

The police officer who fired the fatal shot is understood to be traumatised by the incident.

The MP for South Down, the SDLP's Eddie McGrady, has voiced concern about the police action.

Probe into shooting at checkpoint
18 Apr 06 |  Northern Ireland
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