Pandemonium in court shootout - 13Apr06

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Pandemonium in court shootout - 13Apr06

Postby Rudi » Thu, 2006-04-13 17:39

Pandemonium in court shootout
April 13, 2006

http://www.themercury.co.za/index.php?f ... Id=3202412

By Chris Jenkins

Empangeni Magistrate's Court officials and people in the public gallery fled in panic yesterday during a dramatic shootout in a holding area below one of the courtrooms when an awaiting-trial prisoner disarmed a policeman and tried to make a dash for freedom.

The man, being held for last month's Tusk Umfolozi Casino robbery in Empangeni, is believed to have killed himself during the gun battle.

He appeared to have died of a gunshot wound to the head.

Incredibly, nobody else was killed or injured in the shoot-out between Isaac Mbehevu, of Gauteng, and three policemen.

The incident caused pandemonium in the court building in Empangeni's main Union Street. Shocked officials and members of the public later told how they had dashed for cover as gunfire echoed through the courthouse.

The chaos erupted when Mbehevu, from Soweto, and two other awaiting-trial prisoners were about to be taken into district courtroom B after being transported to the magistrate's court from Empangeni Prison.

Police said Mbehevu had disarmed a court orderly, Insp Prosper Mdletshe.

A shoot-out followed between Mbehevu and two other inspectors and a sergeant, with 9mm bullets flying in all directions in the court.

It appeared Mbehevu intended making his getaway up the courtroom stairwell.

A total of 35 shots were reportedly fired in the corridor below the court.

Mbehevu was hit once in the thigh and there was also a bullet exit wound through the top of his head. A post mortem examination will determine whether he shot himself.

Dived

Bullets struck a number of the cement steps leading up to the court, which was not yet in session, and at least one appeared to have ricocheted, penetrating a wooden partition between the dock and the public gallery and landing on a bench.

Witnesses said three people had been in the court at the time, one of them an elderly woman who dived under a bench. An interpreter, who did not want to be named, said she had been filling in a register when the shooting broke out and she ran out of the courtroom and dashed into an office.

Attorney Johan van der Westhuizen, who was on his way to the regional court, also heard the shots and saw people running down the passage in panic, leaving their shoes behind.

One official said the shooting seemed to last about five minutes.

Shaken people later gathered a safe distance away from courtroom B near the entrance to the building while a police team with assault rifles and bulletproof vests and paramedics moved in.

Court cases were abandoned and the building was sealed off until just after midday while investigators inspected the crime scene.

There was much speculation in the court building about what would have happened had Mbehevu managed to escape, as there were evidently still six rounds left in the magazine of the police issue Beretta he was armed with.

Mbehevu and his co-accused were arrested soon after a gang of about 18 men burst into the Empangeni casino just before midnight on Saturday March 4 and made off with a large amount of money after raiding the cash office and robbing patrons in the packed gambling hall.
Rudi
 
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Location: Sandton, South Africa

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