Shot man tried to grab police officer’s firearm
Police officers who shot and wounded a Pretoria man during an altercation at a guesthouse reacted to the situation with the appropriate force.
Len Cloete was shot at the Misty Hills Lodge in Muldersdrift, north of Johannesburg, on Saturday night after attempting to grab hold of a police officer’s firearm during the tense confrontation.
Dr Guy Lamb, an expert in Crime, Violence, Conflict and Security, told Sowetan that, given the circumstances, the police officers reacted to the volatile situation with the appropriate force.
“In the circumstances an individual is armed like that they should have diffused the situation. But, if their lives were being threatened, they had the right to respond with force. But it is a difficult situation because we also saw that the wife was present at the moment of the shooting,” said Lamb.
He explained that the officers’ lives were threatened when Cloete lunged towards them in a bid to get hold of one of their service pistols.
“The situation could have escalated and the chances of someone being harmed would have risen if we also factor in the erratic nature of the person who was bearing a firearm,” said Lamb.
Lamb said there were other factors to consider before attempting to conclude the chain of events. “There probably could have been a better course of action if the officers had known that the victim had a firearm. They should have left their firearms outside and the situation probably would not have escalated that far,” he said.
Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) spokesperson Grace Langa said Cloete is currently in a coma at an undisclosed hospital. She said Cloete had been arguing with staff and management at the lodge and was asked to leave.
He refused, and security and the establishment manager followed him to the room and asked him to leave. She said Cloete became aggressive and police were called in to assist.
In a video of the incident that has since gone viral on social media, Cloete is seen shouting at police. He is naked at the start of the video but later puts on a pair of blue underpants.
He then tries to disarm a police officer. Another cop at the scene fires a single shot that hits Cloete in the head, flooring him.
Sowetan visited the lodge yesterday, where staff members and the general manager refused to comment.
Investigator Cecil Benade from Mike Bolhuis’ Specialised Security Services said yesterday: “The investigation is at a sensitive stage. We have managed to open a case of attempted murder at the Muldersdrift police station.”
He said they were in the early stages of the investigation to determine if police had proper cause to shoot Cloete. Benade believes the family called him because they want an independent investigation into events leading up to the altercation.
“I’m not exactly sure what led up to the incident,” Benade said, “but I know that the quarrel between staff and Cloete started when they booked into the hotel. From the beginning there was a quarrel. They left to have supper at a different place and said they would return when the issue was sorted because ‘things were not done as they would like it to be’. “When they got back the argument continued and the staff asked them to leave. They did not, so the Misty Hills security were called.”
Lirandzu Themba, spokesperson for police minister Bheki Cele, said they would not comment on the matter as it was now in the hands of Ipid.
Richard Mamabolo, the Police and Prison Civil Rights Union’s spokesperson, said the incident was regrettable and that police officers performing their duties should not be abused.
“We find it regrettable that when law enforcement officers are conducting their duties of promoting safety and security for our citizenry, they are often subjected to the abusive behaviour such as that portrayed in the clip by the person of interest, demonstrating a high-level of disdain for the constitutionally-mandated tasks that these officers carry out with commitment,” said Mamabolo.
Former KZN Hawks boss Johan Booysen said the matter should be left to the authorities to investigate before coming to any conclusions. “Both parties were wrong but I am not willing to comment further on the situation. We should give Ipid and the police space to investigate because we do not know the chronological chain of events,” said Booysen.
Sowetan attempted to contact JC Cloete, the manager of the fitness club that the injured man owns in Pretoria. He, however, did not respond to text messages sent to him.
– Additional Reporting Alex Patrick/TimesLIVE