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A “long-serving” custody sergeant died after being shot by a suspect inside a police station.

The victim died in hospital after the gunman, who was being detained, opened fire at Croydon custody centre in south London during the early hours of Friday.

The alleged killer, 23, is believed to then have turned the firearm on himself. He was arrested and taken to hospital, where he remains in a critical condition after sustaining a gunshot wound.

Paramedics were scrambled to Croydon custody centre in Windmill Road at 2.15am. Officers who witnessed the shooting, battled to save their colleague’s life.

Urgent questions were today being asked about how the suspect, believed to have been arrested on suspicion of possessing ammunition, was apparently able to take a gun inside the station and whether the weapon was missed in a search. The Met said no police firearm was discharged.

Scotland Yard said no police firearms were fired during the incident, which took place at around 2.15am.

Priti Patel led tributes to the officer, whose death has sent “shockwaves and sadness” through Scotland Yard.

The Home Secretary said: “This is a sad day for our country and another terrible reminder of how our police officers put themselves in danger each and every day to keep the rest of us safe.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson sent his “deepest condolences”, adding: “We owe a huge debt to those who risk their own lives to keep us safe.”

Met Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick said he was a “long-serving sergeant”. She added in a statement: “This is a truly shocking incident in which one of our colleagues has lost his life in the most tragic circumstances. My heart goes out to his family, direct colleagues and friends.

“When a colleague dies in the line of duty the shockwaves and sadness reverberates throughout the Met and our communities. Policing is a family, within London and nationally, and we will all deeply mourn our colleague.”

The station was described as a “state of the art” secure facility with space for more than 40 prisoners when it opened in 2012.

This morning, the front desk was closed as forensics teams and officers in blue crime-scene suits gathered in the car park outside.

A bouquet was at the entrance in tribute to the officer.

Carter Taylor, 19, who lives in Windmill Road, said he was woken in the early hours of the morning by a police helicopter. He said: “We could see something was going on but I couldn’t believe it when I heard a policeman had been shot. I feel so sorry for his family. How does something like that happen inside a police station?”

Speaking from the scene, where floral tributes were left throughout the day, a friend who played rugby with the officer described him as “an inspiration” who was looking forward to retirement.

The 27-year-old said: “The man was a machine. He went from training with us last night to come to his shift work here in Croydon. He would do that week in and week out.”

Mohammed Islam, chairman of the Croydon North constituency Labour Party, lives by the station. He said: “It’s absolutely shocking something like this can happen inside the custody suite. My thoughts are with the officer’s family. He had paid a high price for protecting us all.”

The incident has been referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct watchdog which will lead an independent investigation.

The Met continues to investigate the officer’s murder.

Ken Marsh, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, said: “The murder of a colleague on duty is utterly devastating news. Officers across London are in shock and sick to their stomachs at the nature of his death.

“All our thoughts and that of all our members are with his family, friends and close colleagues at this time. We and all members of the police family across the country are all utterly heartbroken at this news.”

He added: “Officers put themselves in danger every day to protect the public. Sadly, on very rare occasions officers make the ultimate sacrifice whilst fulfilling their role. When that happens we will ensure their bravery and sacrifice is never forgotten.”

Mayor Sadiq Khan said: “Tragic incidents like this are terrible reminders of the dangers our police officers face every single day they go into work to keep Londoners safe. They are the very best of us, and I remain in close contact with the commissioner to offer her and the Met my ongoing support.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer tweeted: “Our police put themselves in harm’s way every day to keep us safe. All my thoughts are with the officer’s family, friends and colleagues.”

A London Ambulance Service spokesman said: “The first of our medics was at the scene in under four minutes. We treated two people at the scene and took them both by road to a major trauma centre.”

Policing minister Kit Malthouse updated MPs about the officer’s death, adding: “May justice follow this heinous crime.”

Raising a point of order in the House of Commons, Mr Malthouse said: “We ask our police officers to do an extraordinary job.

“The fact that one of them has fallen in the line of performing that duty is a tragedy for the entire nation.”

The officer is thought to be the first to be killed in a shooting in the line of duty since Pcs Fiona Bone, 32, and Nicola Hughes, 23, in September 2012.

They were murdered by Dale Cregan in a gun and grenade attack while responding to a report of a burglary in Greater Manchester.

The Met sergeant is the 17th from the force to be killed by a firearm since the end of the Second World War, according to the National Police Memorial roll of honour.

Unarmed Pc Keith Palmer, who was stabbed in March 2017 by terrorist Khalid Masood during the Westminster Bridge attack, was the last Met officer to be killed in the line of duty.

The roll of honour includes Pc Andrew Harper, who died when he was caught in a tow rope and dragged along country lanes after trying to stop quad bike thieves in Berkshire in August 2019.

The Thames Valley Police officer’s three teenage killers were cleared of murder but convicted of manslaughter after an Old Bailey trial.