Saturday, 30 August 2008

Cops open fire on robbery victims

August 30 2008 at 09:37AM

By Shaun Smillie

A couple are fighting for their lives in hospital after being mown down in a hail of bullets in a police reaction that went horribly wrong.

The cops, responding to an emergency call about armed robbers in the couple's house in Meyersdal, Alberton, opened fire on the vehicle in which the husband and wife were travelling. The couple, who are in their 40s, were in the intensive care unit of Alberton's Union Hospital last night.

The robbers got away, but not before gang-raping the couple's daughter.

On Friday, the parents' bullet-riddled Land Cruiser stood in their driveway.

They were shot on Thursday evening after they had reversed at speed out of the driveway of their house and failed to stop when challenged by police.

Officers armed with automatic assault rifles opened fire.

The shooting occurred about two hours after five robbers had broken into the double-storey house.

According to police spokesperson Superintendent Eugene Opperman, the robbers had entered the house at about 9pm. They tied up the son, who was alone, and began ransacking the home, loading goods into the family's black Toyota RunX.

When the daughter arrived home, the robbers overpowered her, tied her up and began raping her.

Opperman said the parents then drove into the driveway, returning from a holiday. Police said shots were fired at the couple from the garage.

"Someone in the house was able to press a panic button," said Opperman.

When the security company phoned, they could hear a woman screaming and were told that a house robbery was in progress. They notified the police.

"Police were in the vicinity and were able to respond quickly. They came with their lights flashing and in totally marked cars," explained Opperman.

As police officers approached the house, they were fired at from inside, he said. They returned fire.

As the police approached the house, said Opperman, the couple's white Land Cruiser came reversing from the garage at high speed, its headlights off.

The 4x4 then sped down Izak de Villiers Street towards other police officers. Opperman said the officers had to dive for cover to avoid the speeding car.

A police officer at the house on Friday said the Land Cruiser had been packed with luggage, which probably suggested to the responding police officers that these were the robbers with stolen goods.

A resident, who lives just metres from where the incident occurred, heard what happened next.

"Somebody said 'Stop, police', then shooting, tat tat tat tat," said the man, who did not want to be identified.

The Land Cruiser finally came to a halt about 200 metres from the house.

"Inside the car, a male voice said 'Are you police or metro?'. A lady was screaming inside the car. Then someone must have fallen on the steering wheel, because [the hooter] went on for 15 minutes," said the witness.

A policeman, processing the crime scene yesterday, said the car had been hit 28 times. The windscreen had nine bullet holes in it and both the driver and passenger side doors were hit. The tyres were shot out.

Netcare 911 paramedics arrived quickly and stabilised both patients at the scene.

"The paramedic told me that both had been hit more than once," said Netcare 911 spokesperson Nick Dollman.

Police then entered the house but found that the robbers had jumped the back wall and disappeared into the veld.

Hospital spokesperson Laurinda Xavier said the couple were in a stable but critical condition.

Police recovered a stolen 9mm pistol, a large knife and some clothing believed to have belonged to the suspects.

Opperman said Meyersdal had become a prime target for house robbers in recent times and, ironically, the police's quick reaction time on Thursday night was in part a result of heightened awareness.

The Independent Complaints Directorate will investigate the shooting.

This article was originally published on page 1 of The Star on August 30, 2008


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