An off-duty police officer was allegedly killed, execution-style, by two fellow policemen in Thokoza on the East Rand after he had discharged his firearm while trying to recover his brother’s stolen cellphone.
Witnesses who Sowetan spoke to yesterday said the slain police officer, whose name cannot be released yet, had gone to a house where a man accused of earlier taking his brother’s cellphone was located in the early hours of the morning.
At around 2am on Tuesday, the officer arrived at the house but did not see the man who had allegedly robbed his brother of his cellphone.
“He pulled out his gun and shot in the air to scare the people. But the people panicked and ran out of the house screaming,” a witness said.
The man said as people ran out of the house, they saw a police van that was patrolling the area and alerted the occupants of the incident.
“That’s when police ran after him. They chased him along the road and began to shoot him. They shot him while he was running and he ultimately fell,” a resident said.
The officer apparently told his colleagues who had just shot him in the back that he was also a police officer.
“They said to him, ‘but you are shooting at us’ and they simply finished him off while he was lying on the ground,” another witness said.
He added: “We don’t understand why police can do such a thing. He was already down, why did they have to shoot while he was down?”
Residents who live next to where the officer died said they had heard many gunshots.
“First it was just two gunshots. Then there was a break. Afterwards, I heard many gunshots and I could not count. I know the man died at one of the houses,” the resident said.
Police spokesperson Brigadier Mathapelo Peters confirmed the incident but said the matter was now with the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid).
Ipid spokesperson Moses Dlamini said the case has been brought to its attention and is being investigated.
“Two police officers were patrolling and two men called in their direction saying ‘we’ve been robbed’. When the police rushed they saw a man carrying a firearm and then pursued him,” Dlamini said.
He said “the suspect then opened fire at the police. The officers fired a warning shot and the man ran into a house and they pursued him and he fired at them again and they returned fire,” he said.