Church shooting: Pieter van der Westhuizen returned fire to protect others, says lawyer

Pieter van der Westhuizen following the church shooting.
Pieter van der Westhuizen following the church shooting.
  • Pieter van der Westhuizen's lawyer said he acted in self-defence when he shot two attackers during a robbery at a Centurion church.
  • Three men entered the church, assaulted the pastor and fired shots before Van der Westhuizen drew his licensed firearm and returned fire. 
  • Van der Westhuizen is a former police officer and the brother of late Springbok rugby player Joost van der Westhuizen. 

Pieter van der Westhuizen - who shot and killed two robbers at the Querencia Ministries church in Wierda Park, Centurion, on Sunday - protected not only himself, but the entire congregation, his lawyer said.

Lawyer Ulrich Roux of Ulrich Roux & Associates told News24 that Van der Westhuizen - a retired police officer and brother of late Springbok scrum half Joost van der Westhuizen - was still shaken following the incident. 

"Of course, it is a traumatic experience for anybody. He will be receiving the necessary counselling, but he seems okay. He was a police officer for 13 years, so he's had the necessary training to deal with similar situations, but it remains a traumatic experience for everyone." 

News24 earlier reported that two robbers were shot dead and a third fled after during the robbery on Sunday morning. According to Roux, no one else was seriously injured.

"The pastor [Kobus Erasmus] suffered a few blows to the head and a teenage boy was grazed by some shrapnel."

Roux said Van der Westhuizen was not charged and that he was co-operating with the police.

'Did what was necessary'

"I can't elaborate on all the detail, but at this stage, it would appear that [Van der Westhuizen] acted in self-defence - not only to protect himself, but also to protect the other congregants." 

He said one of the three robbers put a loaded firearm to the pastor's head and that shots were first fired by the robbers.

"Pieter did what was necessary to ensure everyone's safety." 

According to the police, the three men entered the church and robbed churchgoers of their personal belongings.

One of the congregants then allegedly opened fire, killing two of them inside the church, Brigadier Mathapelo Peters told News24.

The third escaped in a getaway car after they were shot at.

"The pastor sustained minor injuries and was treated on site," Peters said.

Calls to Erasmus went unanswered on Monday.

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