Kai Tak shoot-out residents say they were kept in the dark
Residents say they had no idea what was going on as drama played out as police complain live TV coverage may have jeopardised operation
Johnny Tam, Samuel Chan and Lo Wei
Residents of the Kai Tak public housing estate where yesterday's fatal shoot-out took place have questioned the handling of the incident by police, saying they were kept in the dark and asking why only the floor where the gunman lived was cordoned off.
Some serving and former police officers also criticised the live television coverage of the unfolding drama, saying it could have jeopardised the operation.
But police said they did not cordon off the entire Lok Ching House building or evacuate anyone because they had taken sufficient precautions to ensure residents' safety before allowing them to freely enter and leave the building in Kai Ching Estate.
"When we confirmed which storey the suspect lived on, we closed all passages to that floor," said Chau Hin-hung, superintendent (operations) of Kowloon East Crime headquarters.
Chau said police phoned residents of all flats on the 10th floor - where suspect Li Tak-yan, 51, lived - telling them to stay indoors, lock their doors and lie on the floor.
"If we had recklessly asked residents to leave their homes and the suspect suddenly came out, there would have been a chance of a hostage situation," he said. "We took the safest approach to protect everyone."
A police source said everything was under control. "Special equipment was used to see into the suspect's flat to ensure that he was alone inside and that no one was taken hostage. Snipers were standing by," he said.
The CCTV signal in the suspect's flat, showing the building entrance, was also cut.
But residents complained they were not kept informed of the police operation. A resident of the 11th floor - one storey above the gunman's flat - said he was not given any information: "I heard officers walking and talking outside my home this morning, but I didn't get any call from them to tell me to stay home." Another resident, Sandy Lam Yung-yin, who lives on the 30th floor, said she was afraid as she could hear the chaos outside but did not know what was going on. "I got all my information from the [television] news," she said.
But some police criticised the live television news coverage of the elite unit in action.
"If the suspect had seen on television that the 'Flying Tigers' were scaling down the building on ropes he may have shot them," one officer said.
But another police source said it was hard to stop media broadcasting the event. "Even if you can stop the live TV broadcast, there is no way to stop anyone from reporting it online," he said.
Televised news was not the suspect's only means of finding out what was going on outside the flat if - like most people - he had a smartphone, the source said. He added that officers were focused on the operation rather than trying to block reporters.
The entire building of Lok Ching House was cordoned off on Saturday night after 43-year-old air-conditioning technician Liu Kai-chung was shot dead.
The building was reopened at about 5am yesterday while the gunman remained at large. Police closed only the 10th floor later that morning after locating the flat in which the suspect lived.
Two teams from the Special Duties Unit were deployed. One team, comprising more than 20 members, was put into action while the other was on standby. Police believe the gunman shot himself with a 7.62mm pistol.
Shooting drama in Kowloon: timeline of events
11pm: Residents of Lok Ching House hear arguing followed by three gunshots
11.24pm: A resident calls the police after finding a man lying unconscious in a lift lobby on the 21st floor. When officers arrive, they discover that the 43-year-old man has been shot in the chest. The man is rushed to hospital, and the building's entrances are closed
12.03am: The 43-year-old is declared dead at the United Christian Hospital in Kwun Tong
5am: Residents are allowed back into their building
11am: A resident identified by police as a suspect in the shooting fires two shots at officers from his apartment window. A single shot is returned by police. The suspect then climbs out of his window holding a gun to his head, and climbs back inside after about a minute
11.13am: A fourth gunshot is heard by residents
11.45am: Officers from the elite "Flying Tigers" unit break into the suspect's flat and find him unconscious next to a gun
After 12pm: The suspect is taken away in an ambulance before being declared dead at the United Christian Hospital
(Times are approximate)
Correction: An earlier version of this article gave the name of the alleged gunman as Lee Tak-yan, the name released by police on Sunday. On Monday evening, police confirmed that the suspect's name is Li Tak-yan.