Cape Town - Armed robbers killed a security guard and critically injured a police officer in Philippi on Monday.

The four robbers had stolen about R1 000 from the Tops liquor store at the Philippi Plaza soon after 9am on Monday. They returned to their vehicle, a white Volkswagen, and made a dash for the shopping complex’s exit.

Constables Zamikhaya Tshaya and Sandiswa Lala were entering the parking lot on a routine patrol at that very moment.

The robbers immediately opened fire on the police vehicle, hitting 32-year-old Tshaya in the head, through the windscreen.

His partner, Lala, cocked her gun but was forced to duck during the barrage of gunfire. The police vehicle crashed into the robbers’ car during the shoot-out.

The attackers got out of the car and ran away. At the gates they shot and killed Compass security guard Grant Stephans, before crossing Govan Mbeki Road and disappearing among the adjacent shacks.

On a nearby road, the four hijacked a silver Chevrolet Aveo. By mid-afternoon police had recovered the vehicle where the robbers had abandoned it.

The four are still at large.

“It was chaotic, I couldn’t count how many shots there were,” said a street vendor who witnessed the shooting. He did not want to be named for fear of the robbers returning.

“Throughout the entire parking lot I saw people dropping to the ground, as they tried to avoid the bullets. I did the same. You cannot name me. These guys are crazy. There is no telling what they may do.”

Police closed down the parking lot and customers and staff were seen leaving the complex from a back entrance.

Lala, visibly distressed, returned to the scene to fetch her personal effects from the crashed police vehicle. She was accompanied by colleagues from the Philippi East police station.

Provincial commissioner Lieutenant-General Arno Lamoer called the attack “horrible” and “despicable”.

“That such a violent attack can be carried out when the robbers got away with a little more than R1 000 baffles belief,” he said.

“Our sincere condolences go to the family of the security guard who died as a result of this crime.”

Stephans was from Mitchells Plain. The Cape Argus spoke briefly to his employer, Ernst Bester, as he was on his way to meet Stephans’s family.

“This is a terrible personal loss and a huge loss to our company.” Stephans “was by far one of the best officers we had”, Bester said, extending his condolences to the Stephans family.

The family were not willing to be interviewed.

Bester praised his other officers for their bravery after they used their own bodies as human shields to protect Stephans’s body after he was shot.

The injured police officer was in a critical condition at Vincent Pallotti Hospital at the time of publication.

Lamoer had been briefed by doctors, and he reported that Tshaya would survive.

Police are still seeking the “armed and dangerous” robbers.

Members of the public should phone Crime Stop at 086 001 0111, said police spokesman Captain FC van Wyk.

Cape Argus