A killing of a man who was shot by a soldier at a Christmas dance in Belfast in 1971 was not justified, a coroner has ruled. The soldier who fired the fatal shot had not aimed at any individuals deliberately but had acted recklessly by firing into a crowd at close range, coroner Joseph McCrisken found. Joseph Parker, 25, was fatally shot in the thighs after a patrol of soldiers entered the dance at Toby’s Hall in the Ardoyne area of the city. He had an 18-month-old daughter and his wife was heavily pregnant with their second child at the time of his death. A coroner’s court in Belfast was told that on the evening of Mr Parker’s death, around 100 people were at the dance when soldiers entered in search of an individual who they wished to speak to. Witnesses told the court that the atmosphere became hostile as some members of the crowd shouted at the soldiers to get out. Some chairs were knocked over and bottles broken, the court heard.
As tensions escalated, a soldier fired shots at the ceiling, prompting those present in the hall to duck to the ground. Another soldier then shot into the crowd while he was in a crouching positing, hitting Mr Parker in his thighs. Coroner McCrisken told the court: “I am satisifed that this shot was fired deliberately but that Mr Parker was not deliberately targeted, in other words, this soldier was acting recklessly when he fired shots at such a low level in a hall full of civilians. “I have not been presented with any evidence which suggests that Mr Parker posed any threat, either direct or indirect, to the military patrol.”
Read more: Belfast Telegraph, http://bit.ly/2hUpXk0