Cops shot us, say medics

Date: 11 Dec 2006
I saw a guard in front of me fall down … I saw blood gushing from my thigh. The police opened fire on us without warning Two paramedics who responded to a distress call during a fatal domestic argument have accused the police of shooting them without warning - and then trying to cover it up by removing evidence. Speaking from hospital yesterday, Elland Mashamaite (37) and Tshilidzi Nemutandhela (26) told The Star that they and three colleagues called for police back-up during Friday's incident at a Noordwyk, Midrand, townhouse complex, but ended up getting shot themselves. However, North Rand police spokesperson Superintendent Eugene Opperman yesterday dismissed the allegations as rubbish. "That's nonsense. I don't know what they are talking about. We are busy investigating the matter," was all he would say. Mashamaite, who was on his last shift on Friday before going on holiday, said the paramedics received a call from a man at about 3.30am to rush to the townhouse complex. He said the man told him he had just shot his wife. "We arrived at the house before 4am, and while trying to help the woman - who later died - we called the police for back-up because we did not know what the man would do. A few minutes later, the police arrived at the house," he said. As the police arrived, he said, the man grabbed a gun under a plate on the table and shot himself. Panicking, Mashamaite, Nemutandhela and an armed-response security guard, who was also on the scene, rushed out of the unit. "Without any warning, the police started shooting at us. We were in full reflective uniform, but they just shot at us," said Mashamaite, who sustained a bullet wound to a thigh. "While running on the balcony towards the stairs I saw the security guard fall down right in front of me. I moved for about half a metre before I also fell down. "I saw blood gushing from my right thigh and knew I had been shot as well. Immediately thereafter I saw my colleague (Nemutandhela) go down," he said. Mashamaite claimed that while three other paramedics were helping the wounded, police were picking up bullet cartridges. "I could see them picking up the cartridges. I couldn't understand why they did this," he said. Nemutandhela, with a bullet lodged in his right leg, said: "I thought the police were coming to protect us, only to find that I'm now the victim. They didn't even give us a warning." Another paramedic who was at the scene, Frans Moshaba, said: "I was attending to the woman who was shot and speaking to her husband, who was behind me, when I suddenly heard a gun go off. I turned and saw the woman's husband fall to the ground and I realised he had shot himself. The others (who didn't know what had happened) fled and a few seconds later I heard gunshots from outside the house." Moshaba said he hid behind the sofa, and when he eventually ventured outside he saw Mashamaite, Nemutandhela and the security guard on the ground. While he and two other medics, who had escaped injury, attended to their hurt colleagues and the guard, Moshaba said he saw the police picking things up off the ground, but could not be sure what they were. "I think the police panicked when they heard the first shot go off inside the house and started shooting," he said. Johannesburg Emergency Services spokesperson Malcolm Midgley confirmed that the paramedics and the guard had been shot. He said: "If the husband shot himself, who else (besides the police) could have fired the shots that wounded the paramedics and the guard?" He said the matter was now in the hands of the police. Boyane Tshehla, head of the crime and security programmes at the Institute for Security Studies, said the police's reaction depended on what they were told before arriving at the scene. "The sensible thing would have been to take into account that there were paramedics at the scene … But the real question is whether the police are trained adequately to deal with matters like these," he said, referring to the recent incident where police shot a North West priest because they thought he was C-Max escapee Annanias Mathe. Tshehla added that matters like these called into question the appropriateness of Safety and Security Minister Charles Nqakula's view that police should use maximum force. Lebogang Seale The Star 11/12/06