Cape Town - A suspected robber was shot dead and a police officer wounded when he and his colleague were ambushed by five armed suspects while escorting paramedics in Gugulethu.
According to a paramedic, who asked not to be identified, a phone call made to the crew on Wednesday night was a hoax. It was not the first time the EMS crew had experienced such an attack.
Police say the suspects were after their firearms. While one of the robbers was critically wounded and in hospital under police guard, three of his accomplices were still at large.
The paramedic told the Cape Times that two paramedics received a call to attend to a patient in NY 147, Gugulethu, but first sought a police escort, as they usually do at night.
“Immediately the ambulance arrived at the address the men came out and a shoot-out ensued. It was a hoax because the men came out from the address my colleagues were supposed to have gone to.
“The paramedic team was traumatised, shaking and afraid the whole night,” the paramedic said.
EMS spokesperson Robert Daniels said with Gugulethu regarded as a red zone, a police escort was requested and they immediately assisted the crew on their arrival in the area.
He said police were escorting the EMS crew to the address when their van was shot at.
“The SAPS returned fire, killing one shooter and critically injuring another.
“The EMS staff members involved were severely traumatised - more so as this was not the first time these specific EMS members’ lives were placed in danger under similar circumstances,” said Daniels.
He said the paramedics would continue to receive more trauma counselling.
Police said cases of attempted murder and the illegal possession of firearms were under investigation, and that the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) was investigating the death of the suspect.
EMS manager Phumzile Papu said the incident would cause a lot of problems as police would be reluctant to escort paramedics, “then we will not be able to respond to those areas”.
“I will have an urgent meeting with the SAPS to map a way forward,” said Papu.
He said the two paramedics responding to the call “are definitely not okay”.
“We have experienced a number of hoax calls. At night our members should have known better. At all times we need to take precautions. When arriving at a house we don’t go in when the lights are off; we phone the people inside the house and let them know we are there,” he said.
Provincial commissioner Khombinkosi Jula said the police would continue escorting paramedics in red-zone areas.
“We are ready for them (criminals). We will not be deterred,” said Jula.
He said the 34-year-old officer was seriously injured.
Ipid spokesperson Moses Dlamini said they opened an inquest docket following the shooting. Gugulethu community policing forum chairperson Sonwabile Magida said: “The ambulance staff are of help to the community and we cannot allow hooligans to take the whole community hostage because paramedics would refuse to attend to patients without police escort. Police were right in their actions, whatever the outcome of the shooting.
“We need to mobilise our communities so that the robbery of an ambulance is enough. The people committing these acts are our brothers and fathers and people know them. We urge them to report them when they have information.”