Johannesburg – A 14-year-old boy who allegedly went on a shooting rampage in Berea on Thursday, firing nine rounds in broad daylight at people walking in the street, is back at home while one of his victims, who he shot four times at close range, is fighting for her life.
As workers and residents were enjoying their lunch outdoors, they saw a boy casually walking down the road shooting randomly at anyone he saw.
The attack started in Lily Avenue when he shot at a man in a parked car, narrowly missing him. He then fired at a pedestrian, missing him. He turned into Alexandra Street, where he shot another pedestrian in the leg.
Further down the road, he walked up to a 42-year-old woman who works as a cleaner in the Metropolitan building, and fired twice at close range, hitting her in the head and an arm.
He strolled away, but changed his mind, returned and fired two more shots, again at close range, hitting her in the arm and abdomen. It appears he knew her, as they live in the same backyard informal settlement a few streets away.
As she lay bleeding, the teen carried on strolling down the street, randomly firing his last bullets, one of which hit him in the foot.
Security staff at the Metropolitan immediately alerted their reaction vehicles, police and the emergency services.
A maintenance man at the Metropolitan, who did not want to be named, said he heard the bullets and ran outside. “He was still shooting and I started chasing him. He could have turned the gun on me, but I was not thinking clearly, I just know I had to stop him,” he said.
The boy ran out of bullets, and despite his foot wound, ran down a few streets towards the Barnato Park School where, it is alleged, he wanted to shoot his brother.
By then, the maintenance man had caught up with him, and the security guards arrived and arrested him.
Assistant building manager Isaac Masum, who witnessed the incident, had a narrow escape. He said he heard screams and recognised them as the voice of the cleaner. He ran outside, where the young gunman pointed his firearm straight at him and threatened to shoot him.
“He told me to go and tell his mother that he was at the police station. I don’t know why he changed his mind, but he didn’t pull the trigger,” Masum said, adding that he loaded the injured woman into his car to rush her to hospital as she was bleeding from the head, but the ambulance arrived and she was transferred to their vehicle.
“It was very scary. He could have fired the gun at me – he still had bullets in it at that time,” he said.
Natalie Maggen, a property manager at the Metropolitan, was there when the shootings happened.
“It was chaotic and bizarre, like a movie – he just walked casually down the road, shooting randomly. People were just scattering. Had he been experienced, he would have killed nine people,” she said.
The injured woman survived the four bullets, but her recovery is going to be “a long one”, Maggen said. “She is doing well under the circumstances and has undergone two operations. But the bullet is still lodged in her head,” she added.
Unconfirmed reports from neighbours say that in the morning, the boy had threatened to shoot people that day, including his brother.
He was taken to hospital and kept under police guard until he was discharged over the weekend into the custody of his parents.
Now Berea residents are furious that he is allowed to walk freely in the streets and have drawn up a petition which they will hand over to the police to insist he gets removed from the community.
Hillbrow police spokesman Mduduzi Zondo said the boy was not arrested as he is a minor. He was to appear in court on Tuesday on three charges of attempted murder, malicious damage to property and being in possession of an unlicensed firearm.
Zondo said an investigation into why the boy had access to the gun was at an advanced stage and that the boy’s father would be charged with the negligent handling of a firearm.