Bakery employees tell of terror after shootout leaves five dead
‘Everything happened so fast’
As a young Port Elizabeth policeman lay dying in hospital on Monday, the bodies of four robbery suspects were slumped on the floor of a Central bakery.
The five fatalities followed a deadly shootout inside the Le Bon Bakery in Rose Street at about 8.45am.
A woman working at the bakery was also shot in the leg, according to the bakery owner.
Bakery staff on Monday told of their terror and showed the bruises they sustained when they were assaulted by the suspects. One woman was hit on the chin with the butt of a gun.
The situation became even more terrifying when the suspects opened fire on two Flying Squad members who responded to the robbery.
Tragically, Flying Squad Constable Dwane Kemp, 31 – whose wife is pregnant – was shot in the stomach and died in St George’s Hospital about five hours later.
He had still been in surgery by late morning, but it was believed at that stage that he was in a stable condition. Police said Kemp’s devastated partner had also been taken to hospital for treatment after he broke down at the scene.
“He was in shock from the shootout and taken for treatment,” an official said.
A Le Bon staff member, who did not want to be named, said: “We never thought something like this would happen – one staff member was rushed to hospital [afterwards].
“The other two [had guns pointed at them] and were tied up with electrical cables.”
Another employee told of her terror when one of the gunmen hit her with the gun before tightly tying her hands with an electrical cord.
Showing her swollen and bruised wrists, the woman said: “I’m so scared. Everything just happened so fast.
“He tied me up and hit me with a gun.”
The woman, who was shivering and tearful, struggled to speak about the ordeal.
Police believe that one of the robbers managed to sneak out of the shop during the shootout, leading to a massive manhunt for the suspect.
The shooting broke out just seconds after an employee placed a call to the police, alerting them to the robbery.
According to officials, police back-up arrived when the shooting was already under way.
A wounded Kemp had stumbled out of the shop as the other police officials stormed the building.
Kemp’s wife, Candice, whom he married just more than a year ago, is expected to give birth to their son later in the year.
Kemp and Candice’s social media accounts show a couple deeply in love, with Candice posting a photograph of the two of them, with the caption ‘Love of my life’, on Friday.
On their first wedding anniversary in November, Kemp wrote about marrying his best friend, his saviour and his soul mate.
He expressed excitement over the baby, telling Candice how much she meant to him.
“I love you with everything I am now and forever,” he wrote.
Le Bon owner Bill Erasmus said staff were coping “pretty well” in the circumstances.
“One of the staff was shot in the leg and is being operated on,” he said. “The staff will be going to trauma counselling [on Tuesday]”.
Erasmus, who was not at the bakery at the time of the shooting, said he would do all he could to help his staff after their ordeal.
They had all gone home shortly after the robbery and the business had been closed for the rest of the day.
He was unsure when the bakery would reopen, but hoped it would be Tuesday.
Wholesale customers were still receiving their orders.
Provincial police spokesperson Brigadier Tembinkosi Kinana said police officers had responded to a call for help, leading to the gunfight.
A large part of the road around the bakery was cordoned off for most of the day as forensic experts gathered evidence.
“As the police officers arrived, shots were fired,” Kinana said.
“Police returned fire and as a result a police constable [Kemp] was shot in the upper body.
“Four suspects who were in the shop were fatally wounded while it is believed that a fifth suspect managed to escape.
“Three firearms were recovered at the scene and will be sent to the ballistics unit for testing and to establish if they have been used in other crimes in the province or elsewhere.”
Provincial police commissioner Lieutenant-General Liziwe Ntshinga has ordered the implementation of the 72-hour activation plan in an attempt to catch the robber who is still at large.
The activation plan includes the mobilisation of critical resources such as crime intelligence, forensic experts, detective services and tactical teams.
“An attack on the members of the police is condemned in the strongest terms – attacks on the police amount to an attack on the state and, for this reason, we are determined to bring those responsible to justice,” she said.