The plans of a trio of unsuspecting armed robbers were foiled when they hit a Jet clothing store in Qonce, the Eastern Cape, while a cash-in-transit guard was inside the store.
The wrong time to hit the store
The suspects entered the store on Thursday, but quickly leant they picked the wrong time to hit the store when the armed guard opened fire on them inside the Market Square Jet store on Maclean Street.
One suspected robber died at the scene after sustaining gun wounds during the foiled robbery, while two others fled empty-handed.
Police cordoned off the area, with local businesses, including the busy Market and Bridge streets taxi ranks, losing out on about four trading hours.
Police spokesperson Brigadier Thembinkosi Kinana said the store came under attack at around 10:30am.
The robbers terrorised staff members inside the store, forcing them into an office and holding them hostage. Kinana added the robbers were unaware another staff member was in another office.
Armed guard to the rescue
She raised the alarm before being caught and moved to the office to join the other hostages, he said. An armed guard, who was inside the store, saw the incident and responded by firing shots while waiting for backup.
An exchange of gunfire ensued in which one robber was shot, said Kinana.
The wounded robber managed to exit the building but fell in front of a crowd at the Bridge Street taxi rank’s loading platform.
A search for his accomplices had been launched, said Kinana, adding a case of business robbery was being investigated.
Witnesses said terrified customers ran out of the store in different directions during the shootout.
Man down! Robbers flee, leaving dying colleague behind
Street hawker Sindiswa Zibi, 41, who has been selling hats and hoodies from a gazebo outside the store, said she crawled under her stand and fled when she noticed shoppers fleeing.
She added moments later, two young men, she suspected were the robbers, exited the store.
“We were so scared. The incident has also negatively affected us as street vendors because the police closed the street minutes after the incident. We could not trade during that period,” said Zibi.
The robber’s body lay on the pavement for several hours, covered with a white sheet while traumatised onlookers watched on behind police tape.
Asked for comment, the Foschini Group Limited, which owns Jet stores countrywide, said it would issue a statement in due time.