Heist gang’s rampage
GUNFIRE shattered Richmond yesterday afternoon in a bloody cash heist that left a security guard, a policeman and two robbers dead, witnesses said.
The eight-strong gang, wielding AK47s, exchanged fire with security guards, sending locals scurrying for cover.
Three civilians were injured when shooting erupted outside Capitec Bank in Shepstone Street as the robbers fled to their getaway cars.
A brave police officer, transporting prisoners, joined the chase as other officers entered the fray from the nearby police station.
Late last night, police were still coming under AK47 fire as they tracked the gang in the bush near the town.
Witnesses said police officers were caught in an ambush by the felons, who allegedly had four getaway cars. One officer fell to the gunfire, they said. Another had been injured.
The Witness could not get official police comment, but witnesses described in vivid detail the dramatic events they had seen.
Witness Lucky Reddy said he had been at his shop when he heard the shooting begin. He called an ambulance and Richmond Crime Watch and rushed to help.
“There were about 20 to 30 rounds fired. It was very loud.”
Reddy said the robbers had cornered the security guard inside an ATM box where he was shot.
He said a bystander, a woman, and a fruit-and-vegetable vendor and another man had also been injured in the shooting. Another security guard was also believed to have been injured.
He said the incident had aroused fear.
“It brought back memories of when Sifiso Nkabinde was shot,” he said, referring to the infamous shooting of the former warlord there.
Reddy alleged that the security guards had shot at the robbers with people caught in the crossfire on the street. The robbers had then returned fire, he said.
It is believed that the G4S security guards tried to chase the robbers down the street in their van for a distance.
Accounts indicated that one policeman, in a van carrying prisoners, had jumped out when he saw what was happening and had got into another police car to assist in the chase, leaving the prisoners in the truck, which was later used to form part of the cordon.
They reportedly watched the scene unfold from inside the truck.
An ER24 paramedic told The Witness that the guard who died had been shot in the neck.
Speaking from the scene of the robbery yesterday evening, a shocked Richmond mayor Andrew Ragavaloo painted a grim scene.
Although unconfirmed officially, he said it appeared that a G4S security guard, carrying two money boxes, was killed instantly. He said the robbery had taken place 130 metres from the Richmond police station.
“The local police reacted immediately when they heard the shooting and chased the robbers to the Simozmeni area.”
It’s believed that en route, police were ambushed by the robbers and gunfire was exchanged during which one policeman was shot dead and another injured. The ER24 paramedic said the policeman who was injured was shot in the abdomen with and was taken to St Anne’s hospital where he underwent surgery last night. He was reportedly in a critical condition.
Ragavaloo said the mood in town was sombre.
“It’s horrible. People are crying. There are crowds of people, all talking about it. People are trying to deal with it, but there is a sense of sadness,” he said.
“All the police are on the scene, which has been cordoned off. Police vehicles are driving around. It’s a horrific thing for Richmond. This is a quiet area. The last time we had something like this was 10 years ago.”
He said the body of the security guard had been moved inside the bank, and broken glass littered the scene from a shattered driver’s window and the driver’s rearview mirror.
Ricky Jugree of the Richmond crime watch BBM group told The Witness that it is believed that two of the getaway cars were a silver Toyota Corolla with an ND registration plate and a Silver Run-X.
He said the scene had been complete chaos.
Last night unconfirmed reports were that two of the robbers had been shot dead, and three others arrested.
Magma Security owner Shaheen Suleiman, who helped police chase the robbers, paid tribute to the Richmond policeman who died.
“We lost a good policeman today,” he said
He said police had worked well together. “Everyone played their part. It was hectic.”
Attempts to get comment from both Capitec Bank and G4S security were unsuccessful last night.