Witnesses tell of shootout ordeal
By NG KANG-CHUNG
LORRY driver Mr Shek Kwong-wing thought he must have broken some serious traffic rule yesterday when he saw policemen with pistols drawn chasing his light goods vehicle.
''I was too terrified to respond,'' said Mr Shek, who was parking his van in Kam Ping Street to deliver goods to a restaurant in the Metropole shopping centre when the shootout took place.
''I saw four or five policemen training their guns at my van and shouting 'stop', 'don't move or we'll fire'.
''I thought: If it's only illegal parking, why should I be shot? ''When the policemen started shouting again, telling people to take cover, I realised I was sandwiched in a battlefield.'' Mr Shek said many pedestrians screamed and rushed into shops and buildings for cover.
Kam Ping Street resident Mr Cheung Wing-cheung, who watched the drama from his first-floor flat, said: ''The situation was chaotic. There were about 40 to 50 people. When the shots went off, they were like beans spilling all over the place.
''It was lucky the robbery happened after the students' lunch break or it could have been disastrous.'' Florist Mr Cheung Sau-tong, whose outdoor stall is at the junction of Kam Ping Street and King's Road, said: ''Traffic in King's Road was not too busy at the time but it came to a halt suddenly. Some drivers slowed down to watch the shootout.'' Mr Shek said: ''Shops were quick to lock their gates and for one or two minutes the street would have turned dead silent but for the shots and shouts of policemen.
''And then there was a big explosion and I saw smoke billowing from the other end of the street. I thought it had to be a bomb. But I heard some policemen shout to their colleagues that they were alright and decided to go ahead.'' From nearby car parks came the sudden wailing of dozens of car alarms set off by the reverberation of the blast.
Another resident, Mrs Lam Leung Siu-ying, said she was having lunch with her grandchildren when they heard several loud bangs.
''I looked down the street and saw several men, wearing suits, exchange fire with the policemen.
''At first, I thought they were making a film. But there were no stars and all the policemen appeared to be very serious. Then I reckoned a very bad thing was going on,'' she said.
''One of the robbers tossed a grenade. I immediately pushed my grandsons to the kitchen and locked ourselves in until all was quiet.
''I thought we would die if a bomb hit the LPG truck in the street.'' Mrs Lam moved to North Point four years ago but was considering moving after two armed robberies at the jewellery shop within the past year.
A Kam Ping Street pharmacy operator Mr Lau Cheong praised police for their quick reaction.
He said: ''Teams of supporting officers kept arriving during the shootout. And only 30 minutes later we were told the situation was under control and the robbers were arrested.'' One of the suspects, believed to be driver of the getaway car, was detained in Tsat Tsz Mui Road near the MTR.
''We heard the bang of an explosion and a few minutes later a patrolling police van pulled up in Shu Kuk Street, and some of the officers started pointing their pistols at a man coming towards King's Road,'' a nearby resident said.
He had apparently panicked when the police saw the robbers in Kam Ping Street. He ran up the hill and found the only way out was a narrow alley between the building and the steps leading up to Tanner Hill.
''The police had him trapped and he knew it. He came out quietly with his hands on his head,'' the resident said.