Rampage in city centre

2014-02-05 00:00

AN allegedly mentally disturbed man went on the rampage in the Pietermaritzburg city centre yesterday, attacking pedestrians with home-made nunchucks and a knobkierie.

Police were later forced to shoot him to stop his aggressive assault spree which began near the CIty hall before moving up Church Street near Woolworths.

The city centre erupted in screams as people fled the man some later described as a “crazy ninja” who had allegedly lashed out at them in a frenzy.

Lucas Holtzhausen of Pietermaritzburg Safe City said they had received a report from SAPS Radio Control of a possible mentally disturbed man in the vicinity of the city hall.

“Our operator detected a male walking in the middle of Commercial Road near Church Street. Safe City then directed the police to the scene.”

Holtzhausen said when police arrived, the man started to attack them.

“More SAPS members arrived to assist and the [allegedly mentally disturbed] patient damaged one of the SAPS vehicles. He was later subdued by the SAPS outside of our camera view.”

Witnesses said he was obsessed with attacking white people.

A witness who did not wish to be named said: “The man started chasing traffic wardens who were monitoring traffic along Church Street before moving towards other people who ran away from him because he wanted to hit them with nunchucks used by ninjas in the martial arts movies.”

He said even when the police arrived he allegedly ran straight towards them trying to attack them, targeting a white police officer. The armed policeman warned him to put down his weapon but the man refused. The policeman then shot him in his left leg before they were able to handcuff him.

Another witness allegedly saw him attacking an Amarok VW bakkie and said he moved on to break the back window of a police van using a knobkierie.

“He is a strong man and when he was trying to attack the police, people were shouting: ‘Shoot him’,” he said.

He said after the man had been arrested he had allegedly threatened that he would come out and repeat his attack again.

The entrance to Clicks was barricaded with red tape as paramedics treated the man.

A small crowd gathered with people wanting to know what had happened and who the man was. Paramedics had a tough time moving people away.

Police provincial spokesperson Captain Thulani Zwane confirmed that the SAPS Collision unit was forced to shoot the allegedly mentally disturbed man after he went on a rampage and damaged police vehicles.

He said the police officers were waiting at the intersection of Church and Chief Albert Luthuli Street when they “noticed the man brandishing a knobkierie and a set of home-made nunchucks at passing pedestrians and vehicles”.

He said the police stopped their vehicle and when the man spotted them, he approached the police car and damaged the front bumper before confronting one of the police officers.

“The member immediately instructed the suspect to stop. However, the suspect continued his rampage towards the member. The member had no choice but to fire a shot at the suspect, injuring him on his left leg,” said Zwane.

He said the 45-year-old suspect was taken by ambulance to Northdale Hospital for treatment where he remains under police guard.

Police are investigating a case of attempted murder and two counts of malicious damage to property.

Police have asked that anyone with information about the attack, or anyone who was injured or had their cars damaged in the attack, should urgently contact Detective Lieutenant Siphiwe Gwala on 033 845 2743 or 072 025 8817.

KZN health department spokesperson Sebe Zwane said if people found themselves confronted with a person they believed was mentally ill and dangerous, they should contact the police immediately so they can intervene.

“Police will ensure that the person is sent to one of our health care institutions for an appropriate assessment.”

She cautioned members of the public not to try to intervene in such situations on their own accord without professional people trained in dealing with such matters being present, “as this can pose a danger to their lives”.

• thobani.ngqulunga@witness.co.za

• ON August 17, 2009 in Boom Street, Nonpumelo Ndlovu (21) from Lotheni was beaten to death with an iron bar by Sihle Mhlongo (26) of Tugela Ferry. Police were forced to shoot him to make him stop the attack. Although he claimed to have been hearing voices at the time of the attack, he was found not to be mentally ill, and was sentenced to 18 years in prison.

• On September 1, 2009 an allegedly mentally ill man attacked three people in Retief Street, and stabbed a 55-year-old woman before running away. Shortly afterwards, the same man hit a passer-by with a brick and later slapped another man.

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