Robber killed in North Point confrontation
POLICE yesterday shot dead an armed robber and arrested three other suspected gang members after a grenade was thrown at officers during a botched robbery at a North Point gold shop.
Three policemen were hurt during the battle with the gang.
A motorist was praised for grappling with an armed suspect who tried to hijack his car after the lunchtime raid on the Emperor Gold and Jewellery Company in busy King's Road.
A lorry containing more than 10 liquefied petroleum gas canisters was caught in the crossfire and hit by a number of shots, smashing its windscreen.
The drama began at 1 pm, when two men with handguns and grenades burst into the shop while another kept watch outside.
After pistol-whipping 20-year-old staff member Mr Tse Ka-fai, the raiders escaped with gold ornaments valued at more than $100,000.
They fled through the crowded Metropole shopping arcade but, when they reached Kam Ping Street, they found their getaway car parked in the wrong direction and their driver had disappeared.
Four police officers, including one who arrived on a motorcycle, pursued the gang up the street.
When the robbers shot at them, they returned 11 shots from pistols and shotguns.
As another dozen officers began arriving, one of the robbers threw a pineapple-style grenade, injuring three of the policemen.
Constable Leung Kin-ming, 32, suffered shrapnel wounds to his legs, while constables Yu Hoi-ming, 28, and Chow King-man, 23, suffered minor injuries from flying fragments.
When the gang realised their driver had deserted them, they turned their attention to a Ford Granada parked on the opposite side of the road.
''But the driver told them it would not start,'' a police source said.
''I believe they then tried to grab a goods vehicle.'' They could not start the lorry too and jumped out.
The 46-year-old driver of the lorry, Mr Chan Wai-lam, suffered slight head injuries in the confrontation.
One of the suspects was chased and caught by the driver of the Granada, while police arrested another.
Police found that one of the robbers had a gunshot wound to the chest. He was declared dead on arrival at hospital. A 27-year-old suspect they arrested had been hit in the left shoulder.
The man suspected as the driver was caught in nearby Shu Kuk Street.
Constable Leung underwent surgery in Queen Mary Hospital and was reported to be in satisfactory condition last night.
The three members of the gang who carried out the raid are believed to be illegal immigrants, while the 33-year-old alleged driver held a Hongkong identity card.
Detectives recovered one live grenade with its detonating pin attached, a .45-calibre handgun, a 7.62 mm Chinese-made automatic pistol and 14 rounds of ammunition.
Last month, a woman pedestrian was killed by robbers armed with AK-47 rifles in a shootout on Nathan Road.
Two days earlier, staff at a Causeway Bay goldsmith's shop were pistol-whipped by gunmen also brandishing hand grenades.
Inspector Paul Hobson, of the North Point Division, based in Java Road, said police patrols had been stepped up in the area around King's Road over the past few months because of an increase in robberies and burglaries.
''The speed at which about 15 officers, both uniformed and plain-clothed, arrived at the scene is an indication of how we have been policing the area,'' he said.
Mr Peter Wong Tsan-kwong, Regional Commander for Hongkong Island, defended the decision to open fire in the busy street after some residents and shopkeepers questioned if the police had ignored the LPG lorry parking near the getaway car in exchanging fire with the robbers.
''I am sure that the police did consider the safety and environment before they opened fire. Police officers responded courageously and effectively,'' said Mr Wong, who added that the Granada driver had also been ''brave''.
''I am afraid the policemen had focused all their attention on the robbers and ignored the LPG truck. They were brave but perhaps a bit careless,'' said a woman resident.