Cape Town - A gang of men on Tuesday night petrol-bombed an alleged drug house in Grassy Park, and shot dead a man who lived in the house.
The occupant, 57-year-old Thomas Lewis, was shot by the balaclava-wearing men, and died in the street outside the burning house, on the corner of Torbay Road and 6th Avenue.
“The victim died on the scene. Police are investigating a case of murder and arson. No arrests have been made,” said a police spokesman.
Philip Bam, chairman of Grassy Park’s Community Police Forum, said the community had for years complained about drug dealing at the house.
A neighbour said drug dealing had been taking place at the house for years, and recently it had been regularly raided by police.
“For years cars have been stopping here,” he said. “A boy runs out with a little package, the occupants of a car hand over money in exchange and then drive off. I’m talking about hundreds and hundreds of cars in a week.”
A woman who saw Tuesday night’s attack said police had been raiding the property regularly in recent months, and that last month shots were fired into an unoccupied vehicle (allegedly owned by one of the merchants) outside the property.
After the raids and this attack, there were fewer cars at the property. Bam said the raids had resulted in some arrests, but money and drugs had not been recovered.
This had frustrated the community, who saw the police as being ineffectual in apprehending those behind the operation, he said.
“I’m not saying it was vigilante attack, no one knows the motive and we have to wait for the police to investigate. Nonetheless, vigilantism does need to be condemned in general - even in scenarios where communities feel that the police have let them down.”
Bam said the danger of injuring or killing an innocent person made vigilante attacks a serious concern.
Neighbours who spoke to the Cape Argus said it was unlikely that Lewis, the man shot and killed on Tuesday night, was behind the alleged drug-dealing operation.
“He was a handyman… If he had links to the drug dealing, I would be quite surprised,” said one.
Lewis’s son, Basil Lewis, 37, was present during the attack.
He denied that his father had anything to do with drug dealing. He said there were between 15 and 20 attackers.
“It was dark. There was chaos and confusion. They just started shouting and throwing petrol. Someone just shot and my dad was killed. It’s impossible that he could have been targeted,” Basil said.
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