Guns seized after chase could be stolen from police

Police on the scene after a car carrying a group of suspected gangsters crashed following a chase and shootout
Police on the scene after a car carrying a group of suspected gangsters crashed following a chase and shootout
Image: EUGENE COETZEE

A car chase and shootout with police led to one person being killed and 18 stolen firearms recovered when a group of suspected gangsters lost control of their car and crashed into the wall of a house.

A preliminary probe has revealed that some of the firearms recovered could possibly have been handed in to the police for destruction – somehow ending up in the hands of gangsters.

Police top brass on Thursday were tight-lipped about the situation, saying that information was premature as they were awaiting a ballistics report.

Other police officials, however, said they were awaiting various reports to confirm if the firearms were stolen from the police.

Officials said a preliminary investigation triggered an internal corruption investigation after it emerged that at least two of the recovered firearms had been surrendered to police for destruction.

The firearms were recovered following the shootout – during which several shots were exchanged between police and five suspected gangsters.

The shootout and subsequent car crash left driver Abdul Mohammed, 25, dead.

During the chase, a bag containing 18 stolen firearms was thrown out of the car in Lebanon Road – only a few metres from where the car crashed.

The drama started at about 7pm on Wednesday when police chased the men, who were driving a VW Citi Golf that was allegedly involved in a driveby shooting at the corner of Lodewyk and Burke streets in Bloemendal minutes earlier.

Officials said it was likely the firearms were in transit to a different stash house due to the increased police operations in the area.

Because the bust involved suspected gangsters, the Provincial Gang Investigation Unit has taken over the probe.

Police spotted the car travelling in Rensburg Street, Bethelsdorp.

“A chase ensued and the suspects started firing at the police members.

“The vehicle stopped and one of the occupants alighted and ran away,” provincial police spokesperson Brigadier Tembinkosi Kinana said.

When the car came to a stop in Lebanon Road, police officers approached the car with their guns drawn and the car sped away again.

“The chase continued and in the process, a bag was thrown out of the car. Members picked up the bag and continued with the chase.

“In Bullrush Street, the driver of the VW Golf lost control of the vehicle and collided with a boundary wall.

“It is alleged that three occupants alighted and ran off in different directions.”

Kinana said Mohammed was shot in the back during the car chase – which is believed to have led to the car crash.

“On inspecting the contents of the bag, the police found 18 firearms,” he said.

By late Thursday afternoon, police were still attempting to locate the four men who managed to escape.

According to officials, some of the firearms had been reported stolen in several open cases around the Eastern Cape, mostly in the Bay area.

The firearms, all pistols and revolvers, will be sent to the police laboratory for ballistics testing.

Officers confirmed that a preliminary probe had revealed that two of the firearms had already been handed over to the police, possibly during the amnesty period, and were earmarked for destruction.

Another official said while the initial investigation showed possible corruption within the police, it would only be known for sure once the ballistics testing had been done.

Asked about the two firearms that are thought to have been handed over to police for destruction, Kinana said: “As indicated in the statement, the investigation into the recovered firearms is currently under way as there are no suspect(s) arrested at this stage.

“The statement also indicated that the said firearms will be sent out to the ballistics unit as part of the investigation.

“For this reason, it will be premature for this office to comment on the allegations.

“Furthermore, as stated in the original statement, the cases relating to the recovered firearms are investigated by the Organised Crime Unit. The investigation continues.”

Acting provincial commissioner Major-General Andre Swart said the recovery made a dent in the illegal firearm trade which contributed to murders and gangsterism in the area.

“We will not rest until we are satisfied that the people of these areas are safe and that criminals involved in gang activities are arrested and put behind bars,” he said.

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