Birthday bash ends in deadly shoot-out

Police and security vehicles outside a business at night.

A man visiting Durban from Johannesburg for a birthday celebration was killed in a shoot-out with robbery suspects at a bar in the Woodview area of Phoenix on Saturday. Picture: Reaction Unit South Africa(Rusa)

Published Feb 12, 2024


A night out for a birthday celebration ended tragically when a 47-year-old man from Johannesburg was killed and his firearm stolen during a robbery at a Phoenix bar on Saturday.

Provincial police spokesperson Colonel Robert Netshiunda said Phoenix police were investigating a murder and robbery following an incident in which the man was allegedly shot dead at a liquor outlet in Woodview.

“Reports indicate that a suspect entered the premises and bought liquor and left, only to return moments later with other suspects. The suspects allegedly shot and killed the victim before taking his firearm. The suspects are unknown at this stage,” said Netshiunda.

Private security company Reaction Unit South Africa (Rusa) said its officers were first on the scene after receiving a call for assistance at approximately 1am after suspects entered the bar and held up employees and patrons.

Rusa spokesperson Prem Balram said a patron drew his firearm and shot one of the suspects.

“A second suspect fired a volley of shots which struck the patron in his head and body. He was robbed of his firearm. The injured suspect dragged himself to an awaiting white Suzuki which sped off in an unknown direction,” he said.

He said several spent 9mm cartridges were found at the scene.

According to Balram, the deceased is a resident of Johannesburg who was celebrating a friend’s birthday at the time of the incident.

KZN Violence Monitor Mary de Haas said there were far too many guns in circulation, with many of them illegal. Some had been stolen from police and obtained by unregistered security companies and were easily accessed by hitmen and criminals.

De Haas said nothing would change until something drastic was done to improve policing, starting with crime intelligence and detective services.

“Any station or unit commander where guns go missing is supposed to be disciplined but it doesn’t seem to happen, so there are no consequences for breaking the law. Crime pays. I think we need a judicial ombudsman to oversee and arrange forensic audits of police, the security industry and gun shops,” said De Haas.

Reaction Unit South Africa(Rusa) said several spent 9mm cartridges were recovered at a bar in Phoenix where a customer was killed during a shoot-out with robbery suspects on Saturday. Picture: Rusa

Chad Thomas, an organised and financial crime investigator from IRS Forensic Investigations, said criminals were able to procure illicit firearms in a matter of minutes if they had the money and connections.

Thomas said these criminals were not gun owners but rather criminals illegally in possession of firearms procured on the black market.

“The illegal proliferation of small arms is a growing problem. Illegal firearms are sourced from syndicates that have access to historical arms caches from the days of the liberation Struggle, and illegal firearms that are smuggled across the border. Firearms are also stolen from the police, army, security officers and civilians,” he said.

The Mercury