Random spree from Central to S’strand ends in arrest
In a bizarre series of incidents, four occupants of a luxury vehicle – one armed – caused havoc when they inexplicably went on a wild rampage yesterday, opening fire randomly among protesting students at Port Elizabeth’s Nelson Mandela University.
Shortly afterwards, they charged down on two terrified women motorists in Summerstrand while, earlier, they had pointed a gun at a security guard in a car in Central.
They were finally cornered by police on the M4.
The 27-year-old driver of the Ford Ranger Wildtrak double cab was arrested, along with three other occupants. All are aged between 27 and 35.
At the time of their arrest, the driver and one passenger were shirtless, and several empty alcohol bottles were allegedly scattered inside the vehicle.
Police spokeswoman Colonel Priscilla Naidu said the first incident had been reported at about 11am, when the driver – who owns the double cab and firearm used in the shooting – allegedly pointed a gun at a security guard working for British American Tobacco.
“The man was sitting in [a] car in Rink Street when the driver of the [double cab] pulled up next to him and pointed the firearm out the window at him,” Naidu said.
The double cab then sped off and police were alerted.
From Central, the men sped off to the NMU south campus in Summerstrand, where they drove between the protesters – who were in their second day of demonstrations over security fears following a rape and stabbing attack on campus on Monday night – to get to the security gate.
Freelance eNCA news cameraman Chris van Vuuren, 60, said he had been covering the protest when the double cab slowly drove between the students.
“At the security boom, the security did not allow them entry, forcing them to turn around,” he said.
“When they came back through the crowd, the driver was laughing and, the next thing, a gun came out of the window and was pointed directly at me.
“I moved out the way and four shots were fired. If I didn’t move out the way, I am sure he would have shot me.
“As he sped off, he fired two more shots in the air.”
Van Vuuren said the students had scattered when the shots were fired.
Cellphone footage also shows the terrified students fleeing as the shots are fired.
While speeding out of Summerstrand, the men then attempted to stop a mother and daughter in a car in Strandfontein Road.
“They came flying past us and we moved out of the way,” the mother, who did not want to be named, said.
“They stopped ahead of us and two men, one without a shirt [on], jumped out and ran towards us.
“I told my daughter just to ‘drive, drive’.
“It was very scary and I really do not know what their motive was.
“I just wanted us to get away and did not want to find out.
“Only after the incident, did we hear all the news.”
Shortly after this, police spotted the double cab in Walmer Boulevard and managed to box it in on the M4 freeway and force it off the road.
As the vehicle came to a halt, the driver climbed out and lay down on top of his loaded firearm.
“He placed the firearm underneath his chest and lay on top of it so it was not seen,” a police official said.
“He was pulled up and off the gun and arrested.”
Officials alleged the men smelt of alcohol and that several bottles had been scattered around in the vehicle, including an unopened bottle of Jack Daniel’s whiskey.
Standing a short distance from where the shots were fired, NMU student leader Sonwabile Ngoza, 20, said the students had gathered outside the main gate at the south campus moments before the incident occurred.
“We were standing here and singing when we saw the Ford Ranger drive up Admiralty Way towards us,” Ngoza said.
“I am not sure how the vehicle made it past the first security checkpoint at the traffic circle as the only cars allowed through are those going to the Sanlam Student Village [SSV].
“So I can only assume that they told security they were on their way to SSV.
“When they reached the security box at the main entrance, the security informed them they were not permitted through.”
He said as the vehicle turned around, one of the occupants had fired four shots into the air, forcing the students to scatter.
“We have been preaching to the university about safety and even now when we are marching about safety, we are still not safe.
“There are criminals coming onto campus and firing live rounds in the air,” he said.
“A stray bullet could have hit someone.”
Asked whether the police were doing enough, Ngoza said: “I feel they only respond to certain situations.
“With the rape incident, only one police vehicle was sent, but with this shooting, there are five or six vehicles.
“I feel the SAPS and university must prioritise which incidents are important.
“Hopefully, [university] management will now realise security on campus is a real issue.
“I don’t know if a life has to be taken before they act.”
Another student, who identified herself only as Amandla, 18, said the situation was tense after the shooting as the students were in a state of shock.
“All I could think of was to get to a place of safety,” she said.
“This was a very traumatic experience and I just hope they [university management] now realise the seriousness of [providing] adequate security.|
NMU spokeswoman Zandile Mbabela said the university condemned the incident.
“The university wishes to commend the swift action of law enforcement agencies in apprehending the perpetrators,” she said.
Police said the incident was isolated and not related to the student protests.
Naidu said: “The [double cab] has been confiscated and our forensic experts will gather evidence. The firearm was also confiscated and will be sent for ballistic testing to determine if it was used in other criminal activity.”
Charges of pointing a firearm, discharging a firearm and attempted murder have been opened for investigation.
“The docket will be sent to the prosecutor [tomorrow] when the men are due to appear [in court] and be charged,” Naidu said
The charges could change later, or more charges could be added.
Meanwhile, Mbabela said late last night that all operations at NMU would resume today while ongoing discussions about campus safety continued.