Published Friday, 20 July 2012
A gunman is captured on camera in the shadows during Twelfth rioting in Ardoyne. (© YouTube)
The eyewitness footage, posted on YouTube and tagged "Ardoyne, AK-47, the 12th", shows crowds of youths gathered at Brompton Park where significant violent disorder broke out.
A masked figure then emerges and, crouched low to the ground, fires off around 17 shots in quick succession as he moves backwards and makes off into the shadows.
Some of those gathered - mostly young men and some with their hoods up or scarves over their faces - had started to run at the sound of gunfire, but then stopped to cheer in support.
Police had previously stated that ten shots were fired at officers as tensions in the area heightened.
They have confirmed they are studying the footage as part of their investigation.
Last week, PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott explained that the rioters gave cover for more sinister elements who tried to murder police.
"We have footage which shows the depth and breadth of the disorder and, to some degree, anarchy which took place," he added, making a statement on the issue after the Twelfth.
On Friday local Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly told UTV he was shocked after seeing the eyewitness footage of the incident which he described as "an act of cowardice".
"What we have here is someone firing an automatic weapon from within a crowd, which of course endangered the whole crowd," he said.
"They were also firing toward police and other civilians, so we could have had deaths here."
Let me condemn the shooting in the first place but anyone who goes further and actually uses a crowd to cover themselves are using people as human shields.
DUP North Belfast MLA Nelson McCausland said the video "demonstrates clearly the potential for tragedy which existed because of the republican riots in Ardoyne on that night.
"This could have resulted in one of the worst tragedies of even Northern Ireland's horrific past, with the potential for many deaths and injuries.
"It is clear that the intent of some were to use the protest as a cover for the murder of police officers or others."
Earlier that day, missiles including petrol bombs, bricks and fireworks had been hurled at riot police.
A number of cars were also hijacked, set alight, and pushed towards police lines.
Nine officers were injured during the trouble, but none by the gunman. Six baton rounds were fired and water cannons were deployed in an effort to restore calm to the area.
The Police Ombudsman's Office, which investigates all discharges of police firearms in Northern Ireland, has appealed for information.
A spokesman said: "The (baton) rounds were discharged in the Brompton Park area between 7.30pm and 9.10pm on 12 July. We would be keen to hear from anyone who saw them being fired and can tell us anything about what was happening at the time.
"We would be particularly keen to speak to anyone who has video footage of the rounds being discharged."
© UTV News