Cape Town - A deadly drama unfolded at Mfuleni police station on Tuesday after a police officer who was about to be arrested allegedly shot and killed himself after scuffling with fellow officers at the station.
The officer, who belonged to the Kuils River visible policing unit (Vispol), was arrested for alleged theft of ammunition, but according to the incident report compiled by the unit commander, the suspect (officer) was never handcuffed or held in cells at the time.
The report said while another officer was seated at the counter the suspect grabbed his service pistol out of his holster and cocked the firearm. The officer got up and a scuffle between the two occurred.
It said another officer joined in and tried to disarm the suspect and a shot went off and the suspect fell to the ground, the officer then kicked the firearm away from the suspect as it was next to him.
“The suspect shot himself under the chin, and was transported by ambulance to the hospital and was later declared deceased. A theft of the firearm case was then opened.”
Emergency Medical Services spokesperson Deanna Bessick said when paramedics arrived, the patient was critically injured and they took him to hospital.
Police spokesperson FC van Wyk directed media queries to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) spokesperson Ndileka Cola, who confirmed Ipid was notified of the incident and was conducting a preliminary investigation.
Community Safety MEC Albert Fritz said they were not formally informed about the incident yet by the office of the provincial police commissioner.
“As this is obviously a very sensitive matter, we are also of the view that an investigation would need to be conducted first in order for the facts to be established,” said Fritz.
Criminologist at Stellenbosch University’s political science department, Guy Lamb, said: “When it comes to the arrest of police, it is up to the arresting officer to determine the risk an individual might pose; if someone in their view is not posing a risk, they might not cuff them immediately or put them in holding cells.”
Lamb said in this incident the individual might have been in the process of being processed or may have ultimately been put in the holding cells, but what might probably be found was that the officers involved did not deem that the suspect arrested posed a threat, and they possibly evaluated the situation.
“I think it was really poor judgement on the part of the police officers.
“The suspect might have been calm, and showed no signs of wanting to grab the firearm, hence they thought it wasn’t necessary for them to cuff him, but I think it does underscore the need to be very cautious and take the necessary steps to ensure the safety of the arresting officers, and the safety of the suspect are ensured in these kind of cases,” said Lamb.
ANC community safety provincial spokesperson Mesuli Kama said the death could have been avoided if all safety measures were followed.
Kama said it was clear officers lowered their guard in the situation which was why the deceased officer managed to get the firearm.
SA Police and Allied Workers’ Union (Sapawu) president Bonga Makuliwe appealed to police officers, when making arrests, they should at all times follow the arrest procedures to minimise such incidents.