By Krishnee Naidoo

A Reaction Unit South Africa (RUSA) officer is fortunate to be alive after he came under heavy gunfire from eight armed suspects during a robbery at a wholesaler in Phoenix on Thursday morning.

RUSA officers outside the business premises

Speaking to The Phoenix Tabloid, RUSA boss, Prem Balram, said, “The reaction officer was attending to a complaint of illegal traders outside the business premises when the eight suspects stormed the property. The suspects held up staff before robbing the cash office and till points of an undisclosed amount of cash. Several patrons and employees were assaulted by the suspects. The heavily armed men opened fire at the RUSA officer with handguns and high calibre rifles before fleeing the scene in a silver Opel Corsa bakkie.”

“The reaction officer called for assistance over his two-way radio and pursued the suspects towards Duffs Road near Avoca Hills. Together with a contingent of RUSA officers, we joined the chase. We lost the suspects’ vehicle in KwaMashu. Construction workers informed us as we were passing that a pedestrian was grazed by a bullet on the face when the suspects opened fire at RUSA officers from the back of the bakkie during the pursuit. The injured person was transported privately to hospital,” Balram added.

KZN VIP officers joined police in a search for the suspects in KwaMashu
A shell found outside the store following the shooting at the Phoenix business premises

He said the RUSA officer was not injured in the shooting but was overpowered and his firearm was stolen during the robbery. Phoenix SAPS communications officer Cpt L Naidoo said, “Police members responded to a business robbery on Hunslett Road on Thursday morning. The complainant alleged that she was at her workplace when three unknown men entered the store wielding firearms.

They disarmed a security officer who was in the store. They instructed employees to lay down on the floor and demanded cash. A security officer was disarmed. The suspects took an undisclosed amount of cash which had been kept for pension pay-out. The suspects then ran out of the business premises firing shots. It is further alleged that there were two more suspects who were at the gate standing guard whilst the robbery unfolded in the store. Three more suspects were said to be inside the getaway vehicle. Police are investigating the business robbery case.”

Romano Naidoo of KZN VIP said, “The suspects fled into the men’s hostel at A section in KwaMashu and were pursued by police and KZN VIP. The police came under fire from the fleeing suspects who later fled on foot into the informal settlement. Members went on foot and after tracking for more than two hours, no arrests were made.”

Balram said, “The officer who was confronted by the armed suspects received a RUSA bravery award for his courage under fire and for his valour in pursuing the suspects into KwaMashu on his own after calling for back up. A video of the shootout submitted by a bystander went viral and is evidence of the imminent danger that the officer and those in the store faced. It is truly fortunate that no lives were lost or serious injuries sustained during that ordeal.

RUSA officers are on high alert for the marauding gang.”