Get IOL's cool new iPad app...
Johannesburg - A robber died during a shootout with the police on Thursday night at a Pick n Pay in Honeydew.
Eyewitnesses said a group of about 14 armed men had stormed the Pick n Pay at the Honey Junction shopping complex in Honeydew near Radiokop at 7pm on Thursday night.
The men, who were heavily armed, arrived in a Quantum and a Siyaya minibus during peak hour and ordered the customers to lie on the ground while they robbed them of their belongings, police said.
Simultaneously, another group had split off to ransack the tills.
Police said a manager had pressed a panic button and alerted the police.
The robbers had beaten up some of the Pick n Pay staff, demanding money.
According to provincial police spokeswoman Lieutenant-Colonel Katlego Mogale, the shootout started as the robbers were fleeing the scene and were confronted by the police just outside the shop.
She said one robber was wounded and later died from his injuries. His body was found just outside the complex.
A trail of blood bore evidence of the shooting.
Mogale said four suspects were arrested at George Goch hostel after members of the Tactical Response Team from Hillbrow had pursued them. And one suspect was arrested at the scene.
A customer was wounded during the shootout.
Mogale said the customer was in the parking lot when she was shot in the hand.
A Pick n Pay staffer was shot and injured in the shoulder and an off-duty officer was also injured during the melee.
Mogale said police were going to raid the hostels on Thursday night. “No one is going to sleep at the hostels. Our members saw some of the suspects taking a Soweto direction,” she said.
A witness, Lamuel Goodsol, said he was on guard when the group of men had appeared suddenly.
“There were a lot of customers, so I couldn’t tell which vehicle they [had] come from. When they went into the shop, I suddenly saw customers lying down on the floor. Then I knew there was a robbery in progress. I quickly [lay] down on the floor and alerted our control room, using my radio,” he said.
Goodsol works for Eyesizwe Security Services and was on guard when the robbery took place. “When police arrived and the [shootout] started, I dived for cover and hid myself because I didn’t want the robbers to think I was a threat to them and start firing at me.”
A cashier at the Pick n Pay was still trembling an hour after the robbery on Thursday night.
“I thought I was dying, those robbers were heavily armed and I thought they were just going to pull the trigger. When they ordered me to open the till, I complied quickly. They cleaned out all the money in the till. I don’t know how much was there, but it was a lot of money,” she said.
The cashier recounted how the robbers beat up her colleagues. “I was lying on the ground and I did not move, I did not want to make them angry. They did not want anyone to move or talk,” she said.
By 10pm, police investigators were still milling around the shopping complex. There were cartridges all over the place.
Many of the Pick n Pay staffers were grateful that they had emerged alive, even though some were still shaken by the experience.