Seven people have been injured in a shootout in a busy Johannesburg shopping mall in South Africa after armed gunmen, carrying AK-47s and pistols, opened fire on cash-in-transit security guards at lunchtime on Thursday.
According to News24, three people were critically injured in the shoot-out, which affected three shoppers caught in the crossfire, as well as two security guards and two of the suspected robbers.
An unknown number of gunmen stormed the busy Bedford Centre mall armed with AK-47 assault rifles and pistols. They used the weapons to spray bullets at cash-in-transit guards collecting money from banks on the top floors of the mall.
— SA Police Service (@SAPoliceService) January 29, 2015
According to shoppers, the gunfire happened in two bursts. The first occurred as the security guards traveled down the escalators after collecting the cash from the banks upstairs. The second burst happened after two robbers took refuge in a shop and then tried to shoot their way out. Some of the robbers managed to flee the mall with an unknown amount of cash, before the arrival of the police at the scene.
Evidence points to the robbers planning the heist in advance, as staff at the Wimpy fast food outlet in the center recognized some of the alleged robbers as having coffee at the restaurant just hours before. One member of the Wimpy staff, who prefers not to be named, told Eyewitness News that he thought the gunshots were possibly balloons popping at the party shop close by, until he saw a customer running into the restaurant.
A couple had been enjoying coffee with friends at around 11 a.m. when they first heard shooting and tried to hide. Ashleigh Coetzee told the media that when they looked up, one of the gunmen was standing in front of them.
“This guy was 10m away. I saw him holding this gun and he was firing it.
“Everybody says when you’re in this situation this is what you are supposed to do but when you’re actually in it you just freeze, you’re scared for your life. I think the guy holding the gun looked more scared than anybody else.”
Coetzee and her husband hid with other shoppers behind a counter in one of the walkways until things calmed down. They kept their heads down, and a few minutes later when they stood up, “there was just smoke and the smell of guns.”
While they thought everything was over, what the shoppers didn’t realize was that two of the robbers were hiding in a shop close by. The gunmen then chose to shoot their way out of the shop. Once again, the shoppers had to run for cover.
A South African Police Service spokesman, Lt Col Katlego Mogale, explained how the robbers were targeting the cash-in-transit guards.
“A shooting ensued between them, with some customers caught in the crossfire. An undisclosed amount of money was taken by some of the suspects.
“Three customers, two security guards and two suspects were injured during the shooting. All have been taken to hospital.”
Officials later confirmed that many of the wounded are still in critical condition, and two injured suspects are being treated under police guard. Other suspects are still on the run.
Crime is rife in South Africa, and particularly Johannesburg in recent years.
According to the Telegraph, a shopper tweeted photos of the Bedford Centre shooting yesterday, saying, “Can SA Police stop claiming crime is under control!”
In other recent crime news in South Africa, the Inquisitr reported on the tragic axe murder of a family in an upmarket security complex in Stellenbosch. A further article reported on xenophobia and widespread violence in South Africa.