A huge manhunt is under way for two armed men who shot and killed an off-duty Lyttelton police officer.
Sergeant Bruwer Smit, known to family, friends and colleagues as “Smittie”, died on Tuesday afternoon while his son Jean-dre, 10, looked on in horror.
Smit was described as a dedicated, passionate and hard-working police officer by co-workers.
Frans Esterhuyse, chairman of the CPF Sector 3, said he met Smit about five years ago when he was part of the trio task team assigned by the Lyttelton police station to focus on armed robberies, hijackings and housebreaking in Sector 3.
“He was a good man, a born cop, and made a huge impact in the community and showed true dedication. We presented him with an award of appreciation in 2010 to thank him for his hard work,” he said.
Esterhuyse said he last spoke to Smit last Thursday. “He said he was going for a bike ride. He was very excited and could not wait to go.”
On Tuesday, Smit – a keen mountain biker – was enjoying a ride with his son near the Zandfontein cemetery on the Mabopane Highway west of Pretoria when he was gunned down.
Police spokeswoman Captain Agnes Huma said he was shot in the neck and died at the scene.
She said the two armed men had emerged from bushes, overpowered Smit and his son, removed Smit’s shoes, tied Jean-dre up with the shoelaces and shot Smit.
“The suspects took his bicycle, money and cellphone and disappeared into the bushes,” said Huma.
Jean-dre freed himself and ran to the main road for help.
Huma said the person who stopped to help the child had seen the suspects passing but did not think much about it. He contacted the police, who arrived quickly.
“We are not sure if he was shot with his own service pistol but we are investigating the possibility,” Huma added.
Colonel Neels Kleinhans, stationed at the SAPS vehicle safeguarding section, said he was Smit’s former immediate commander from 2009 while he was on the trio task team.
Kleinhans said he worked closely with Smit for three years and was shocked when he heard the news.
“He was an exceptional police officer, the type of man you could phone any time of the day or night for help. He always had his pistol by his side. I don’t know what went wrong on Tuesday,” he said.
Twitter was abuzz with messages of shock and condolences on Wednesday.
Sally de Beer tweeted: “RIP Sergeant Smit, sympathy to his family and colleagues.”
SAPoliceService tweeted: “Condolences to family, colleagues and friends. Senseless killing. This must stop.”
Zinhle Ngubane tweeted: “It sickens me to see the public kill the people who are supposed to protect them. RIP to all the fallen heroes.”
Provincial duty officer Lieutenant-Colonel Tshisikhawe Ndou said the manhunt was still on. He said Jean-dre was being treated for shock and was undergoing counselling from SAPS counsellors.
The Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union said it was enraged by the brutal killing.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Hercules police station on 012 377 4100, 012 377 0320, crime stop on 08600 10111 or Lt Col Makhunufane on 082 319 9737.