A suspect believed to be linked to a robbery gang was arrested and an unlicensed firearm, police radio, cash and cigarettes were recovered following a business robbery and shootout in Phoenix in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Members of Reaction Unit South Africa (RUSA) were patrolling in the area when they were alerted to an armed robbery in progress at a nearby fuel station. “At approximately 01:58am, as Reaction Officers approached the business, they noticed a white Toyota Etios parked on the forecourt in front of the convenience store. Staff inside the store were seen lying on the floor.

“As the first responders stopped their vehicle, three armed men exited the business and fired a volley of shots in their direction. Reaction Officers returned fire when the gunmen got into their getaway vehicle and sped off. RUSA members pursued the vehicle. During a high speed chase, the suspects continued firing at Reaction Officers who returned fire and shot the getaway vehicle several times. The driver of the Toyota Etios lost control of the vehicle as he attempted to corner a sharp bend. The vehicle left the road and crashed into a tree. The robbers exited the vehicle and fled. Reaction Officers managed to arrest the driver,” said RUSA boss, Prem Balram.

“A 9mm Luger firearm with a filed off serial number, a large quantity of cash, a police radio and cigarettes were recovered in the vehicle. An extensive search was conducted for the remaining suspects, however, they remain at large,” added Balram. He said fortunately, no Reaction Officers were injured during the exchange of gun fire. Phoenix SAPS communications officer, Cpt L Naidoo, said, “It is alleged by the complainant that on the said date and time, he was at his place of employment on Aberdare Drive, when a white Toyota Etios drove in and parked at a petrol pump.

The petrol attendant went to the vehicle and the driver asked for R50 petrol. Before the attendant could do anything, he was held up at gunpoint. The suspects then took the attendant and other staff members into the garage shop where they robbed them of cash and cigarettes to the value of R13, 000. Before the shop was robbed, the supervisor on duty noticed that the suspects looked very suspicious and she pressed the panic button. As the suspects were leaving the premises, members of Reaction Unit SA arrived and a shootout began between the suspects and the RUSA members. As the suspects were driving away, they were shooting at the RUSA members who in turn returned fire. RUSA members gave chase of the fleeing vehicle and the suspects’ vehicle veered off the road and crashed onto an embankment.

“The four suspects alighted the vehicle, however, as the driver was trying to flee, he was arrested. The other three suspects fled the scene. A 21-year-old suspect was arrested and later charged for business robbery. All the items that were stolen in the robbery were recovered in the vehicle including a firearm with the serial number filed off.”

“A short while later, as Warrant Officer Baldav and Constable R Pillay were patrolling the Uppervale area, they saw a male fitting the description of one the suspects involved in the business robbery which occurred earlier. The suspect was searched and was found with a .38 special revolver. The 39-year-old suspect was arrested and detained at SAPS Phoenix. He was charged for business robbery and possession of firearm and ammunition. Both the suspects appeared in the Verulam Magistrates Court on Thursday,” added Cpt Naidoo.

“Reaction officers often come under attack by ruthless suspects at times armed with high calibre weapons. Suspects are merciless but thankfully RUSA members are highly skilled and trained to deal with volatile situations. Thankfully, one suspect had been arrested by RUSA and the RUSA officers escaped the shootout uninjured,” Balram said.