Cop gunned down in street

Gunman said to have run up to car firing before other police shot him.

A POLICEMAN was gunned down on Monday while tracking armed men who had robbed a store in Tsolo less than an hour earlier. Warrant Officer Mpendulo Mbasane, 45, from Lugangeni village in Mount Frere, was a member Tsolo’s stock theft unit.

He was shot in an unmarked police bakkie in the town’s Crossbow Homes residential suburb.

Mthatha police spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Mzukisi Fatyela said a group of men entered a Boxer store in Tsolo around 5pm on Monday and robbed the shop of an undisclosed amount of money.

As the robbers fled with the cash, police in the area were alerted and gave chase.

“The officer was shot while trying to corner one of the ,” said Fatyela, explaining Mbasane had been driving through the township looking for the men after police heard they had made their way there.

Eyewitnesses differ in their accounts of Mbasane’s death, with some saying he was killed at close range and others that the shots were initially fired from afar.

When the Daily Dispatch visited the scene of the shooting at P de Kock Street in Crossbow Homes, some residents said he was cruising along the street when a man hiding in nearby bushes opened fire.

An elderly couple who stay just metres from where Mbasane was killed said they saw a man running towards the car firing.

They said he went right up to the driver’s door and continued firing.

“The car, which was moving at a slow pace, ended up hitting a pole near the gate of one of the yards. We were scared and couldn’t get out,” said the couple, who asked to remain anonymous saying their lives may be in danger as the other three suspects had not been caught.

Fatyela said: “His car rolled down the street, hit an electricity pole and stopped. Other officers who came from another side then engaged in a shootout with the robber, who was shot and killed.”

Various police units in the area were on joint Easter weekend operations when they were told about the armed robbery.

Fatyela said police were hot on the trail of the three other suspects.

“We have good leads and are expecting to make an arrest very soon.”

He said a 9mm police issue pistol was found on the dead suspect. Two magazines with 14 rounds, two cellphones and some cash from the store were recovered.

Mawethu Mfazwe, who was walking with a group of friends when the incident took place, said the shooter was wearing a green T-shirt, jeans and tackies.

He said everyone in the street had scurried for cover when they saw the robber shooting at the car.

“He was walking in front of the car and the next minute, he turned and walked towards the car and shot at the driver through the driver’s window.

“We ran towards a nearby stream as we were scared. The car continued to roll until hitting the pole.”

He said the shooter then walked past the car but was cornered by another police vehicle and a gun battle ensued. The shooter was eventually killed.

“It was like watching a movie ... the man died in a hail of bullets.”

Another resident, Chuma Mazwi, said he was at home when he heard gunshots.

He said the gun battle lasted about 10 minutes before it was quiet outside again.

A police officer in Tsolo said the entire station was traumatised by Mbasane’s killing. Mbasane’s older brother Zanoyise, 65, said the family was distraught.

“JB was just full of life and loved his police work.”

Mbasane leaves a wife and four young children. He served in the SAPS for 26 years. He joined the Tsolo stock theft unit last year after working in crime prevention in Somerset West.

Fatyela said several other cases of armed robbery and murder were being investigated following the incident. —

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