Police at the N2 shoot-out scene where three suspects were killed.
Durban - Despite the rise in deaths of armed criminals in shoot-outs with police, KwaZulu-Natal’s top cops have denied they have adopted a controversial “shoot to kill” policy.

The deaths of three armed cash-in-transit criminals in Harding on Friday has brought the number of alleged criminals killed by the police to 15 over the past month.

This week alone, 10 have died while scores more were arrested during shoot-outs with police in three separate incidents in Parlock, Harding and uMlazi.

However, Brigadier Tefo Johannes Mpete, the provincial head of the operational command centre and Trio Crimes Task Team, which was formed earlier this year to combat violent crimes and tackle aggravated robberies, commended police for not backing down.

“A strong retaliation is always needed when dealing with hardcore criminals who have no respect for law and order,” Mpete said.

On Friday morning, the police reacted after hearing of a gang allegedly on their way to the South Coast to commit a cash-in-transit robbery and intercepted them on the N2.

Brigadier Jay Naicker, spokesperson, said: “When the members responded to an intelligence report which indicated that the suspects were on their way to commit a cash in-transit-crime robbery, they were met with resistance. The suspects opened fire at the officers, who immediately retaliated to defend themselves. Three suspects died on the scene and seven others were arrested,” said Naicker.

The police said the deceased were yet to be identified.

Police at the N2 shoot-out scene where three suspects were killed.

That incident followed Monday’s foiled heist in which six men died while another two were arrested during an armed robbery in Springfield Park.

According to a police source, who was among the officers who responded to the crime scene, the shoot-out began between Springfield’s Value Centre and Parlock after a group of cash-in-transit services guards from G4S were apprehended while conducting cash deliveries from shops.

“It was like in the movies, the heavily armed criminals were shooting wildly at the members. They were led by a hitman, Khayelihle “Pantsula” Ngidi, 41, who had pending criminal cases against him.”

The source said R145 000 was stolen during the heist. The money was later recovered in an abandoned vehicle.

KZN’s acting provincial police commissioner Major-General Bheki Langa condemned the attack on police officers by criminals. “We are grateful our police officers were not killed or injured following this shoot-out even though SAPS vehicles were damaged in the process.

“We are also relieved that through the speedy and precise actions of the police officers involved, these dangerous criminals were arrested.’’

In a separate incident on Wednesday afternoon, alleged hijacking suspect Sandile Eugene “Chillies” Bhengu of uMlazi, was killed during a shoot-out with police.

Videos on social media have been circulating showing cars doing wheelies and firearms being fired, allegedly as part of giving him a hero’s send-off.

Bhengu, who was also a motor-cycling enthusiast, was shot when police apprehended him and two other suspects.

“It is always disappointing to law enforcement officers when they see communities coming out in large numbers to give criminals a hero’s send-off just as it’s disappointing for victims of these atrocious crimes who live with the trauma for the rest of their lives.

“It is for this reason that we remain determined to fight crime and make a difference in society by arresting and removing thugs from our communities,” said police spokesperson Captain Nqobile Gwala.

Police have deployed more police officers to uMlazi.

TIMELINE OF KZN CASH HEISTS:

March 31

SBV Services offered a R1-million reward for information leading to the arrests and conviction of armed robbers who carried out a cash-in-transit heist at an ATM in Pinetown, where a 31-year-old SBV officer was shot and killed and another was wounded.

A 50-year-old suspect was arrested at the scene. The other suspects fled in two getaway vehicles - a white Honda Accord and a grey Mercedes-Benz.

May 2

Police were hunting a gang of armed robbers who held up a cash-in-transit security guard at a shopping centre in Inanda. According to the police, the security guard and his colleague were about to load the cash into an ATM when the robbers swarmed them.

August 4

Three men were killed in a shoot-out with police on the N2 near Queen Nandi Drive. One suspect was arrested and one was on the run. They were allegedly on their way to commit a crime when the police intercepted them and the shoot-out ensued.

August 14

Three men were killed in a shoot-out with police on the M13 near Pinetown. They were part of a group which had allegedly robbed a cash vehicle. One man was injured and one fled.

August 28

Six men were killed following a cash-in-transit robbery in Springfield. The robbers fled to Parlock, where five were killed and the sixth died in hospital. Two men were arrested and appeared in court yesterday. One is still missing.

September 1

Three men were killed in a shoot-out with police on the N2 near Harding. They had been following a cash-in-transit vehicle before police intercepted them. Seven more were arrested.

Sunday Tribune