Suspect shot in street

2011-12-20 00:00

A SUSPECTED Eastern Cape armed robber was shot and critically injured by police in Pietermaritzburg yesterday afternoon.

The man, whose name is being withheld, is thought to be a member of the “gang of six” who turned the main street of Bizana into a war zone on September 9 during an armed robbery at the Shoprite supermarket in the small town.

That shoot-out left one officer dead and five critically injured. Three bystanders were injured in the crossfire.

KwaZulu-Natal police spokesperson Captain Thulani Zwane said task team detectives from Bisho in the Eastern Cape came to KwaZulu-Natal yesterday to trace and arrest the last two members of the gang, who face charges of armed robbery, attempted murder and murder.

Zwane said the Eastern Cape team and the Durban national intervention unit were following leads that led to Pietermaritzburg.

“Police were tipped off that the suspect would check in at a local guest house in Boom Street yesterday afternoon. As he was dropped off by a private vehicle the detectives approached him and tried to place him under arrest.

“It is alleged that he tried to disarm one detective and he was shot in his upper body during the scuffle. He was taken to Northdale Hospital in a critical condition under police guard,” said Zwane.

Zwane said the last suspect was later arrested in Willowfountain.

The two suspects will be taken back to the Eastern Cape and charged.

An officer at the scene identified the man by name, insisting that he was the wanted member of the gang.

The Witness team were denied access to the crime scene and told they had no right to take notes or interview people there.

Asked to comment, Eastern Cape police spokesperson Captain Mlungisi Matidane said the Bizana main street was like a war zone during the robbery.

He said the six men entered Shoprite and demanded money.

“An employee phoned an officer she knew and who happened to be at a nearby filling station. The officer rushed to the station where he discovered that his colleagues had already gone to the scene.

When the officer arrived at the scene “all hell broke loose”.

“As the battle got outside bullets were flying in all directions. Five of them were injured, while one died on the way to a nearby hospital,” said Matidane.

Two robbers escaped on foot, two in a getaway car and the other two hijacked a vehicle.

Police followed leads to the nearby kwaNdunge area and spotted a vehicle moving slowly towards town.

“We suspect that [the occupant] was the gang’s spy. When he saw us coming he jumped out and escaped,” said Matidane.

A second vehicle appeared and two occupants shot at the police, who retaliated, killing one suspect and injuring a second occupant.

Police proceeded to a suspect’s house where a woman proved to be unco-operative.

“She was arrested and six guns, including an AK47, R5 rifle and four 9 mm pistols, were found in the house.

“About R67 000 and a bag full of coins were also found, with more than 10 cellphones believed to belong to the employees of Shoprite,” he said.

Matidane was elated when the identity of the man shot yesterday was disclosed to him.He said the man was the mastermind behind the robbery. “He planned all this and he is the gang’s general.”

Three suspects in the robbery have died, two having been killed during a shoot-out with the police in Umlazi near Durban.

Addressing the Mpophomeni community during Minister Nathi Mthethwa’s visit to the area yesterday, Acting Police Commissioner Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi said the death of anyone, whether a police officer or a civilian, was sad and not acceptable.

He added: “The risk of death to police officers is always there and we train them so they can avoid getting shot and we arm them so they can protect themselves in the event of being attacked.

“The police are not allowed to kill people; they are trained to arrest people and take them to court and not to kill them.”

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