Durban - In a brazen attack in broad daylight on Tuesday, two Inanda police officers were robbed of their guns, stripped of their uniforms and shot.
A 38-year-old sergeant was killed and left in the back of his police van and his female partner, who is also a sergeant, was critically injured. She was flown to hospital.
Police spokesman Major Thulani Zwane said the two, from the Inanda station’s inquiries office, had gone to the Namibia informal settlement to serve a protection order on a man in connection with a domestic violence case.
“At the suspect’s house, he and two others overpowered the officers and took their firearms.”
He said the officers were also stripped of their uniforms.
The men then drove the officers to Ngcungcwini, in Inanda, where they were both shot and locked up in the back of the police van.
Zwane said the suspects ran away and a police helicopter and other units were sent to hunt for them, but they were still at large.
At the scene on Tuesday, officers from the station became emotional when they saw the officers’ van, and Zwane said they would be sent for counselling.
The police forensics team was seen documenting the crime scene, taking pictures and video footage of the van and speaking to detectives from the Hawks.
A resident of the area, who asked not to be identified because he feared for his safety, said he saw a speeding police vehicle passing by and, after a short time, he heard two gunshots.
“Myself and the people I was with first thought it was police who were firing, but we asked ourselves why they would shoot at someone who was inside the van.”
The man said he then saw a man talking on the phone and heard him say something about “trouble” and later saw two other men with guns, and suspected that the men were involved in the shooting.
He said he believed the suspects had wanted to torch the police van but fled when they could not find matches.
Institute for Security Studies senior researcher Johan Burger said it appeared that the attacks on police were on the rise and this was “extremely worrying”.
“The attacks on police need to be seen in the context that all levels of violence are increasing, and examples of this can be seen in mob justice and community protests.”
Both the KwaZulu-Natal Community Safety and Liaison MEC, Willies Mchunu, and the provincial police commissioner, Lieutenant- General Mmamonnye Ngobeni, conveyed their condolences to the officer’s family and wished the wounded officer a rapid recovery.
Mchunu said the murder had been “callous” and he was “disturbed” by the brazen nature of the attack.
“That these heinous murders of officers continue to happen means that we have to redouble our efforts to fight crime,” he said.
Ngobeni appealed to the public to help police find the culprits.
“An attack on one officer is an attack on us all. The Hawks will work tirelessly to catch these criminals and I appeal to members of the public who know these thugs to please contact us.
Zwane said that the deceased’s officer’s name would be released later.