Off-duty officer thought to have shot himself in leg while asleep
In what has been described as a freak accident, an off-duty police constable died after shooting himself in the leg while sleeping in a car on the outskirts of Port Elizabeth.
Eljay Brown, 24, who worked at the Storms River police station but was doing a stint at the Humansdorp Operational Command Centre (OCC), shot himself in the left thigh while sitting in the back seat of the car at about 1am yesterday.
He is believed to have bled to death.
The incident happened on the R334 between Fitchets Corner and Uncle Freddie’s Market near the Rocklands fuel station.
According to police, Brown had spent most of the day in Uitenhage and was travelling back to Humansdorp with four friends when the car they were travelling in ran out of fuel.
Officials on the scene said Brown had been nervous about possibly being robbed while parked alongside the road, prompting him to sleep with his firearm on his lap.
Police spokeswoman Captain Sandra Janse van Rensburg confirmed that Brown, a passenger in the vehicle, was off duty and had had his state firearm with him at the time.
Janse van Rensburg said: “The car ran out of petrol, prompting the group to pull over onto the verge. They made a decision to wait until first light when they would walk to the nearest petrol station for fuel.
“Due to the area being surrounded by bushes and poorly lit, [Brown] placed the firearm on his lap and is believed to have fallen asleep.”
She said that during the night a shot went off and Brown’s friends initially believed they were being hijacked.
“After they realised they were not being attacked, the group realised Brown had been shot in the leg and was unconscious,” Van Rensburg said.
He died in the back seat of the car. “The cause of death will only be known after the postmortem is concluded,” she said.
Asked why the men were in Uitenhage, she said they had said they had been visiting friends.
Metro EMS operations manager Ashwell Botha said his medics declared Brown dead on the scene.
It is suspected the projectile from the firearm struck his femoral artery. No foul play is suspected and an inquest case is under investigation by Kabega Park police.
Contacted yesterday, Brown’s father, John, asked to be called back but did not answer the phone after the initial call.