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Cape Town - Moments before he shot alleged 28s gangster Saliem John on the steps of the Western Cape High Court, a gunman approached under the guise of selling a television set, said John’s father Simon Stanfield.
Accused of six counts of murder and gangsterism, John is the nephew of the late ganglord Colin Stanfield who gained wide notoriety in Valhalla Park before he succumbed to cancer in 2004.
Stanfield said he and John were leaving the courthouse in the city centre for the 1pm lunch break on Wednesday when a young man approached them at the top of the steps to ask if they wanted to buy a flatscreen TV.
“My son said we were ‘not interested in buying stolen stuff’.
“When I next looked, he pulled a gun from the (waist) of his pants and shot,” said Stanfield. John, 31, was wounded twice, in the shoulder and face.
In a trial that began before Judge Lee Bozalek on August 26, John and six co-accused face six counts of murder and charges under the Prevention of Organised Crime Act for gang-related offences in Valhalla Park.
The shooting follows another in April last year when an accused, also on trial for a gang-related matter, was shot in the neck on the pavement opposite the court building.
In Wednesday’s incident, the alleged gunman, a 21-year-old man from Delft, made an escape on foot up Leeuwen Street but the quick handiwork of a passer-by helped the police to catch him.
Cape Times photographer Jeffrey Abrahams, who just happened to be at court for another case, said he heard two shots in quick succession, pushed down two women standing next to him, then dropped to the ground.
When he got up he saw a man rolling down the court steps and “reacted instinctively” by taking his picture.
He then looked up and saw a different man running away. About a minute later, the police caught him.
A passer-by said she’d been leaving an eatery on the corner of Leeuwen and Long streets when she heard someone shout: “Catch him! Catch him!”
She grabbed him with her left arm, which caused him to bump into a waste bin, slowing him down. “Another guy pushed him down to the floor, then the police got there and arrested him,” she said, asking not to be named for fear of gang reprisals.
Police spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel André Traut said the man had been arrested on a charge of attempted murder.
A .38 Special revolver had been seized during the arrest.
Stanfield said he heard two shots being fired. “I’m lucky I didn’t get shot, the way he was shooting,” he said.
He said he dived for cover behind a pillar but when he turned around to look for John, he hadn’t been there.
Witnesses told the Cape Times that John had run into the court building, leaving a trail of blood.
The incident took place just before most of the ongoing cases adjourned for lunch, putting some court-goers, lawyers and staff members in a panic and leaving others confused.
One witness said she’d sought refuge in a corner of the building near the foyer when she saw a bleeding man running past her. “I was so scared the one doing the shooting was going to come in after him,” she said.
Justice Department regional head Hishaam Mohamed said all criminal matters on the court’s roll had adjourned for the rest of the day. They would continue on Thursday. He was confident that security measures at the court were “sufficient and effective”.
“We upgraded security operations just last week in case of occurrences just like this one,” said Mohamed.
“No one with a gun would’ve got into the building.
“That’s why all these incidents take place outside.”
The upgraded measures had included more security personnel.
There had also been police officers at court especially for the John trial and two other cases.
He said the police were in the process of studying footage from CCTV cameras, which were located near the door at the main entrance of the building.
John, meanwhile, had been taken to hospital.
Traut said: “The suspect is detained until he is charged, whereafter he will be due in court. The motive for the incident is not known at this stage.”