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Weekend Warriors

Weekend Warriors

- Alon Bergman -

Copyright © 2019 Alon Bergman

Published by Alon Bergman Publishing at Smashwords

First edition 2019

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or any information storage or retrieval system without permission from the copyright holder.

The Author has made every effort to trace and acknowledge sources/resources/individuals. In the event that any images/information have been incorrectly attributed or credited, the Author will be pleased to rectify these omissions at the earliest opportunity.

Published by Alon Bergman using Reach Publishers’ services,

P O Box 1384, Wandsbeck, South Africa, 3631

Edited by Garth Elliott for Reach Publishers

Cover designed by Reach Publishers



Alon Bergman


I dedicate this book to the brave men and women of the South African Police Reservists who risk their lives for no remuneration, in one of the toughest policing environments in the world. I also dedicate this book to the memory of our fallen colleagues, killed in the line of duty.


This book took a lot longer to write than I imagined it would. Through perseverance the book eventually came together. There are a few people who need special mention.

Thank you Caroline for being an amazing wife, police crew and soul mate, and for forcing me to sit down and actually write the book instead of just talking about it. A huge thank you to my children, Raquel and Ilan, for listening to the stories and encouraging me to write more and more.

It is an honour to mention my father, Mike Bergman, who introduced me to the world of policing and firearms. Thanks Dad.

To Captain Adam Butchart, my brother-in-arms. Thank you for keeping me alive under fire, and sharing these amazing moments with me.

A huge thank you to Inspector Kevin Hacker, the best attorney a man could have, and a true friend, who supported and advised me through some extremely tough times.

General Charl Annandale and Colonel Anton Van Jaarsveld, who inspired me to become an officer and serve with the same integrity and professionalism as them. Thank you for your support and dedication to the police reservists.

To my reservist commanders Colonel Ivan Myroff, Lieutenant Colonel Harry Berman, and Lieutenant Colonel Allan Hume, who guided and supported me all these years.

Lastly, thank you to Constable Richard Strever and NYPD officer, Sgt Jorma Huttunen who took some of the amazing photographs in this book.

Table of Contents




1. Alexandra Township - August 1993

2. Charge Office Blues

3. Night Riders

4. Killarney Mall - Cash-In-Transit Robbery

5. Nicknamed – Bang Bang

6. Ride Along

7. Steers Woodmead

8. Black BMW

9. Tokarev

10. Taxi Murder

11. I’m Innocent

12. Pearl Earrings

13. Over the Wall

14. Coffee in Eldos

15. Narcotics

16. Smash and Grab

17. Intervention Unit

18. I Will Not Surrender

19. Alexandra Xenophobic Riots

20. Twenty Rounds

21. Flying Squad

22. Call the Plumber

23. Hunting a Killer

24. Bush Patrols

25. Steve’s Story and Others by Caroline Bergman

About the Author


It Takes a Wolf to Catch a Wolf

The name Weekend Warriors became synonymous with a group of highly dedicated, motivated civilian volunteers who devoted their time to fight crime as part-time police officers in South Africa. Weekend Warriors was initially a derogatory word that the permanent force members called these volunteers. They couldn’t understand why anyone would do the job for free, and with such passion, so they gave the name to imply the part-time weekend nature of these warriors; a name that stuck.

South African Police Reservists are recruited from all walks of life and encompass many professions and trades. Police reservists are legitimised by the South African Police Service Act 68 of 1995, subsection 48, and the Reservist National Instruction 3/2014, which outlines the functionality and structure of the reservist component.

The SA Police Service recruit members from their own communities. These recruits are then trained at local training centres and complete a six-month part-time course in basic policing and criminal law. The rest of their training is completed on the streets.

On average, each police station has approximately 30 reservists who perform their duties mostly at night and on weekends.

When on duty, a police reservist has the same rights and powers as a permanent police officer, and until recently had had the same uniform and rank structure as their permanent police force colleagues. There have however been significant changes recently, which were released in the new National Reservist Instruction.

* * *

From as far back as I can remember, I wanted to be a police officer.

My earliest police memory dates back to 1978, standing in the garden with my father who was helping me to put on his Sam Browne belt. I was about six years old, and the leather police belt hung just above my feet.

From that moment on, I knew that I was going to be a cop someday.

My father is an ex-Israeli special forces soldier who served in the renowned Golani Combat Infantry Brigade. He was a sergeant and fought in three wars in Israel. He joined the South African Police Reservists in Hillbrow, Johannesburg in the early 1970s.

He was one of the originals. Part of a group of civilian volunteers who served their community by helping to police Johannesburg and keep people safe. I believe his influence is what inspired my enthusiasm and drove me to join the Police Reservists in 1993.

I first enlisted at the Norwood Police Station, and thereafter served in a number of special units which included the North East Intervention Unit, The Alexandra Vehicle Anti-hijacking Unit, The Johannesburg Flying Squad, and The Johannesburg Tactical Response Team.

Over the years Caroline and I would tell and retell stories about things that had happened while on duty, to family and friends at Sunday braais (barbecues). Often, the incredulous stories would be told just a few hours after coming home from a crazy night of action and mayhem.

Caroline Custodio was my girlfriend. She was a young 21-year-old Zimbabwean, working as a national tourist guide in South Africa when we met. We met through a mutual friend named Dave. Dave worked at the Gold Reef City theme park, where he met Caroline, and they decided to rent a flat in Illovo together. One day Dave and I picked up Caroline on the way to the shooting range, as they were going to sign the rental agreement afterwards. At the shooting range, Dave started to teach Caroline how to shoot, but he wasn’t doing a very good job, so I stood behind her and held my arms around her to teach her the correct shooting stance. Caroline said that when she felt my arms around her, she just melted.

We dated and a year later she joined the police reservists. She was on the Reservist training course with a guy named Adam Butchart. The three of us partnered as a crew, and patrolled Norwood together for 11 years. Caroline and I eventually got married in 2000.

For a long time, people have asked me to write a book to record my police stories as part of South Africa’s transitional history to a democratic republic. So that’s what I’ve done.

The stories are as accurate as I can remember them. In cases of uncertainty, I have referred to my duty pocketbook to fill in the gaps.

I have tried to capture the reality of policing during this very difficult time in our country’s history. Unfortunately, for legal reasons I have had to omit certain details to protect myself and others, which is a little sad, because I believe history should be told as it happened.

The conditions under which we policed were by no means normal for any First World police force. My police friends from around the world have all commented that what we experienced and did on duty would by no means be considered normal policing in their countries. That many of the situations to which we responded, would have only been attended to by a SWAT team.

What follows is a collection of my experiences as a Police Reservist in Johannesburg from 1993-2013, and then later the vastly different experience of policing the small town of Hoedspruit, bordering the Kruger National Park.


Prior to the 1994 election, South Africa was in a situation of political turmoil and uncertainty.

The ANC and Inkatha Freedom Party were involved in a political power struggle. Police riot units were trying to keep the various political factions apart, as a meeting of the two meant that murder and violence was the order of the day. It was in this environment that I experienced my baptism of fire.

Chapter 1
Alexandra Township - August 1993

After completing the part-time reservists training course, I was compelled to perform at least 30 hours of duties at the Norwood Police station’s charge office. This was to familiarise me with the police’s administrative functions, before being allowed to work out on the streets.

I was 21 years old and fit. I used to train at a gym across the road from the police station. Behind the police station were the police barracks which housed the single and married living quarters of several guys from the Riot Unit. I trained with them regularly at the gym and became friendly with a captain who commanded a platoon in the Riot Unit operating in Alexandra Township.

The police riot units at the time were specialised groups of highly trained officers, with skills in military weapons, explosives, and tactics. They didn’t wear the standard police blue uniforms but were instead issued with camouflage attire.

The Alexandra Riot Unit, call sign INDIA, patrolled in Casspirs; armoured ambush-resistant vehicles, the same type used in the Angolan Bush War. They carried assault rifles, shotguns and Uzi submachine guns, a famous Israeli automatic firearm. They were also issued pyrotechnics such as stun grenades, smoke grenades and illumination flares.

During my training period, I would book on duty at the Norwood Police Station and work a few hours in the charge office.

Around 19:00, I would notify the Charge Office Commander that I was going out to get some dinner. I would then drive through to Wynberg, where the Riot Unit’s base was located in an industrial business park, next to the Alexandra township.

My nights would be spent patrolling Alexandra township with the Riot Unit. This was by no means normal. Typically, reservists were not allowed to join the Riot Unit and I had not yet been issued a uniform or my official police ID yet. But the promise of action was worth the risk.

On this particular night, we left Kew Base in an open top Casspir and began patrolling the township. Kew Base was an industrial warehouse located between similar warehouse buildings that we used as a garrison. The only distinguishing feature was the bulletproof glass windows at the guard house entrance. Inside the warehouse were face-brick office structures. The most important one was used as the radio ops room. The others were allocated to the platoons. Each platoon had their own armoury, containing an array of weapons and equipment.

On arrival, the radio operator at Kew Base would call a patrolling Casspir, to come and collect me. I was still a rookie cop, although I had completed my national army service in the SA Defence Force, and I had been training in combat-pistol shooting for a number of years. I had also done a bit of tactical training with my Israeli friends, who had all served in the IDF in Lebanon in the 1980s.

Warrant Officer Terblanche was sitting up-front next to the driver. Terblanche was the platoon commander tonight. The radio crackled with reports of shots being fired. Usually, we would arrive on the scene to find nothing, but there was always that feeling of tension in the air. By watching the more experienced officers operating in the township, I learnt the skills necessary to survive in this dangerous environment. What looked like a simple procedure of exiting the Casspir, and then taking cover in the street, was a necessary skill that I had to learn quickly.

We stopped suddenly at the sound of automatic gunfire coming from the street parallel to us. Heavy calibre rifle rounds were being fired into the air. My heart was pounding with excitement, I was going to see some action!

We were about to get out, find the perpetrators… but then a call came through. It was our commander on the radio, telling us to stand down. The shooters were members of the ANC military wing, Umkhonto We Sizwe (MK or Spear of the Nation) mourning the death of one of their comrades, in typical MK style.

In any normal situation, we would arrest the suspects, yet in this unsteady political climate, we would be treated as the aggressor and be blamed for a massacre. This was not ordinary policing, and I had to learn quickly if I was going to survive this type of urban warfare.

So we continued onwards. Our Casspir patrolled down Roosevelt Avenue. We took a slow left turn into the narrow dusty street at the corner of Roosevelt and 14th Avenue. There were shacks lining both sides of the road. A white single cab bakkie (pick-up truck) was approaching, driven by a single male.

Our Casspir was blocking both sides of the road, so the bakkie driver stopped. I was standing on the Casspir’s seat overlooking the little white vehicle below me.

To my surprise, the driver suddenly pushed his gears into reverse, and started to accelerate backwards at high speed. He stopped. Shifted hard into first gear and then proceeded to ram his vehicle into our front left tyre as he tried to squeeze past the Casspir. The Casspir shook with the impact but sustained no real damage.

The bakkie driver reversed again, stopped, and this time drove straight forward, over the narrow pavement, between the front of our vehicle and the wall of a shack.

By this stage my adrenaline had skyrocketed. I drew my Browning 9mm pistol as our Casspir driver reversed to turn and give chase.

The White bakkie was now racing down 14th Avenue towards London Road, with us in pursuit. Our Casspir, “India Three Zero” was now behind the suspect and maintaining a steady distance.

I was leaning out over the roof of the Casspir aiming my gun at the driver and shouting at Warrant Officer Terblanche, “Can I shoot?” I got no answer. To be safe, I refrained from shooting, but kept my pistol aimed on the driver as we gave chase.

Suddenly, Terblanche climbed out onto the front of our moving vehicle and edged his way to the very front. As if rehearsed, the Casspir crept forwards within 2m of the bakkie. Terblanche leapt forward and landed on the back of the suspect’s moving vehicle. Terblanche reached into the open driver’s side window and grabbed the suspect by his throat, in a one-handed stranglehold.

The bakkie immediately slowed down, edged its way to the left side of the road and hit the pavement hard, coming to a dead stop. Terblanche was still clutching at the drivers throat. I jumped out of the Casspir and ran forward to find Terblanche now handcuffing the suspect.

“Control, India Three Zero, vehicle test please?” asked our radio operator.

“India Three Zero, go ahead,” came the response over the radio.

Thank you control. Registration will be for a white Toyota bakkie, Lima Hotel Yankee Two Four Seven Tango. We have the vehicle here in Alex.”

“India Three Zero, that vehicle is positively stolen under Bramley Case Number: Four One, of August ‘93. Well done guys!”

After booking the bakkie into the vehicle pound, I eventually returned to the Norwood Police Station. It was 03:00. The Charge Office Commander looked at me strangely, but he didn’t say anything. I couldn’t sleep for the remainder of that night. The whole event was playing over and over in my head like a movie. The adrenaline bug had bitten me.

During my time at Norwood Police Station, I spent many nights patrolling and responding to emergency calls in Alexandra. I got to know the township very well. The alleyways between the shacks, the Zulu men’s hostels (Madala Hostel and Boys Hostel), the council apartment buildings, bus stations, markets and particularly the escape routes used by the car hijackers.

I also learned to recruit informers who fed me intel on where stolen cars were being chopped up after robberies and where we could find illegal guns and wanted suspects. Alexandra became my hunting ground for criminals.

Chapter 2
Charge Office Blues

After completing my 30 hours of charge office duty, I was allocated a regular Saturday night shift. The Saturday shift was run by Sgt Colin Morris. We normally started at 18:00, working until the early hours of Sunday morning, depending on how busy it was.

The reservists had their own office at the station. The office also acted as an armoury. It had a heavy metal reinforced door with two large padlocks. One key was kept by the Charge Office Commander, and the other by each reservist’s shift commander.

Our office was comprised of an old wooden desk with pigeon holes containing all the police administrative paperwork. There were two steel cabinets with radios, blood sample kits, forensic bags, blue lights, roadblock equipment, Tonfa Batons, bolt cutters, barrier tape and other paraphernalia that police use on duty. We also had an old oil drum filled with sand, into which we pointed our firearms’ barrels while we made our weapons safe.

When I first joined, the reservists booked out their pistols and R5 rifles from the main charge office safe. There was often a shortage of the old Walther P38 pistols, so most of us carried our own private firearms when on duty. I carried my 9mm Luger M80, a copy of the famous Browning Hi-Power, which was used by the British SAS for many years. A few years later, we were all issued with brand new Z88 pistols, a very well made South African copy of the Beretta 92F. There was also a shortage of bulletproof vests, so most of us purchased our own vests privately from the same manufacturer that supplied the police force.

We often drove around in an unmarked yellow minibus with a magnetic blue strobe light that we would put on the roof when we needed to chase or jaag to a crime scene. The crew comprised of Sgt Colin Morris and Dave Jawno, who were our drivers, Tony Kuriata, our Polish R5 gunner, Stanley Maram the second R5 gunner who was a firearms instructor and the two rookies, Martin Joseph and I.

Unlike the rest of us, Stanley was the only one who wore a fancy bulletproof vest with Kevlar neck protectors, shoulder protectors and a flap down groin protector. Stan owned a gun shop, so this type of protective gear was second nature to him.

Whenever I had an opportunity during the week, I would book on duty with the permanent police force members and spend a morning or afternoon patrolling the streets with my mentors, Captain Andre Janse van Rensburg, and Sgt Davies. Rensie as we liked to call him, and Davies were like bloodhounds when it came to sniffing out criminals. What I learned from these two guys I carried with me throughout my career.

Rensie was an officer of incredible calibre. I remember one morning when he was dropping his wife off at the bank where she worked. He had come up the escalators and walked straight into a gang of bank robbers. Upon seeing a police officer in uniform, the suspects immediately opened fire on him.

Rensie returned fire, emptying his first magazine. He then ran down the escalator to his car and retrieved another full magazine and ran back to continue the gunfight. Rensie ended the robbery by shooting most of the suspects and was uninjured himself.

Crime started to rise rapidly in 1995. After booking on duty with Brixton 10111 Radio Control, the radio operator would start handing out complaints that were still pending. These Bravo complaints hadn’t been attended to yet by the regular shift crews because they just couldn’t cope. Most were complaints that required dockets to be opened, which was not a favourite for reservists.

We tried to avoid the 14B, housebreaking report, and the 15B, theft of motor vehicle, as best we could. But our job was to fill-in the police shortage of manpower and attend to these cases. So, we responded to them.

There were many nights where our area was so busy with incidents, that Control would allocate a list of complaints to us. The issuing of complaints would go a little something like this:

“November Whisky Twelve, Control.”

“Twelve send Control.”

“I have a number of complaints for you, please write them down and call me with a report when you’re done. I’m going ahead.”

“Roger Control send.”

I have a 15B, theft of motor vehicle in Orange Grove, a 23B, armed robbery in Highlands North and then a common theft in Waverley. After that, please proceed to a house break-in in Sydenham, and then a domestic violence dispute in Greswold. Can you also attend to a fight at a shebeen (local drinking tavern) in Yeoville followed by a house robbery in Houghton?”

“Control, Greswold isn’t our area, that’s Bramley.”

“Please guys, help me out here. I don’t have a Bramley vehicle booked on duty yet for the night.”

“No problem Control. The Yeoville fighting incident isn’t in our area, but we’ll attend to that one too.”

With Control’s permission, we could attend to complaints in other policing areas. We would prioritise complaints and attend to the paperwork complaints last. There were many nights when we didn’t even have time to eat supper and I would get home after a 12-hour shift ready to eat a horse.

Our little yellow minibus flew around the city, with lights flashing and siren wailing, attending to any Alpha priority complaints.

We would break at a scene where the six of us would pile out to attend to the crime. We often performed as many as five tactical house penetrations a night. I learned to climb every kind of wall and navigate over electric fences like a cat in the night, without being electrocuted. The comradery between us was incredible. We shared our lives, we laughed together, we nursed our wounds together, and we stood over our fallen comrades and mourned together.

About a year after I joined the police, Adam and my girlfriend Caroline completed the reservist course and started active duty. Adam Butchart lived in the Norwood area, and was a year younger than me. He worked as a gym instructor and like Caroline and I, had an incredible passion for policing. As mentioned earlier, the three of us became a team. We crewed together at least twice a week for many years to come.

Adam and I worked a lot in Alexandra. We would perform four-man foot patrols with the Riot Unit guys, walking between the shacks at night. It was extremely dangerous, but easier to stop and search suspects carrying illegal guns this way. It may sound crazy, but I felt safer walking the streets than patrolling in a vehicle. If we patrolled in a police vehicle, the suspects would whistle to alert each other that the police were around. They would then lay an ambush, shooting at our vehicles from the alleyways between the closely packed houses as we drove past. If, we walked between the shacks, we would virtually be on top of the suspects before they realised we were the police.

Many cops were ambushed and shot whilst driving in and around Alexandra. I personally saw the bloodied bulletproof vests of a reservist crew that had stopped to inspect a suspicious minibus taxi parked at a petrol station on the outskirts of Alexandra one night.

As these reservists approached the vehicle, the sliding door opened, and they were sprayed with a burst of automatic gunfire from an AK47 rifle. Both reservists were shot.

One bulletproof vest had a small crater in the ceramic plate, dead centre in the middle of the chest. The ceramic plate had split open a little across the top seam, and the bullet had penetrated a few layers of Kevlar between the plate and the reservist’s body. He was truly lucky, and I’m sure he had some serious bruising to his chest.

The second police officer wasn’t as lucky. The bullet had just missed the ceramic plate and passed straight through the Kevlar and his left shoulder, exiting through the rear Kevlar layers.

Fortunately, both cops survived.

Another incident that comes to mind, is when some police reservists who had responded to a complaint in Alexandra drove into a narrow alleyway between the shacks and were hit by a hail of bullets from behind their police van. The bullets ripped through the steel panels of the van and into the ceramic plate of the crew seated in front. The crew member, not even realising that he had been hit, held his R5 assault rifle facing rearwards out of the window, and opened fire up the alley, hoping to suppress the ambush. They reversed out and made it back to the police station without any injuries. At the police station, I saw the bullet holes all over the rear of the yellow van. The driver was amazed that his crew had been hit in the back of his bulletproof vest but didn’t feel it.

Chapter 3
Night Riders

Although Martin Joseph and I had completed the Police Reservist training and our mandatory 30 hours of charge office duty, neither of us had authority to drive a state vehicle yet.

One very cold winter’s night on the Highveld, Martin and I were keen to work. We wanted to put in as many hours as we could. There were no other reservists to work with that night, so we booked out the only two mountain bikes that the station had recently acquired. I was dressed in police uniform with only a thin state issue blue jersey and a bulletproof vest to keep me warm. I had the police radio clipped to my vest at my left shoulder.

Martin and I decided to patrol Orange Grove and Sydenham on the bicycles. Patrolling on a bicycle is very different to patrolling in a car. You hear people talking in their houses, dogs barking, you notice garage doors and gates opening and closing… You see and hear your surroundings more intimately.

It was 22:00 and the streets were empty. My nose was running, and my lungs burned as I inhaled the cold Highveld air. Then I heard the radio shouting in my left ear.

“Control to any vehicle for a house-breaking - in Orange Grove.”

I nearly fell off my bike trying to answer the radio. We were only a few blocks away.

“Control, November Whisky Two Five, we are very close! “

I don’t think Control realised he was giving the complaint to two crazy guys riding bicycles on a winter’s night.

I’m pretty sure we were the only bicycle crew operating in the whole city that night. Bicycle patrols were virtually unheard of in those days.

I pedalled hard. Martin was in front and we must have looked like two schoolboys racing each other to the nearest corner. We turned the corner and were at the top of the road, looking down the hill.

Without warning we heard gunshots followed by bullets whizzing past us. We threw our bikes to the ground and took cover, lying flat on the grass pavement facing the gunshots. I drew my pistol and scanned the street below. I could see the silhouettes of people far down the road. Then more gunshots cracked through the air.

I placed my pistol on the grass in front of me as I struggled to unclip the radio’s microphone. After pulling it free, I pressed the call button and shouted. “Control, Whisky Two Five, shots fired!”

Martin got up and ran forward so I sprang to my feet and followed him. I had run about five steps when I realised that I was carrying a radio in my hand and not my pistol. It dawned on me that my pistol was still lying on the grass behind me.

I turned to retrieve my gun, while the gunshots continued. With my pistol now in hand, I raced down the road with Martin ahead of me.

We were close to where we saw the silhouettes, but all was now silent. An armed security reaction guard walked out of a driveway to our right with his hands open and called out, “Security, don’t shoot.”

He quickly relayed to us a story that he had responded to a house break-in alarm down the street and had come across the suspect in the garden. He chased the suspect into the street and started to shoot at the fleeing suspect.

Those were obviously his bullets that flew past our heads when we stopped the bikes at the top of the street. He continued to tell us that the suspect had run across the road and entered a garden, from which he began to jump from wall to wall. As the suspect began to climb a garden wall, the security guard shot him with his 357 Magnum revolver in his buttocks. He fell and collapsed in the garden.

After the story was told, I entered the garden. The suspect was lying on his back. He had a small entry wound in his buttocks and a small exit wound in his groin area. There was hardly any blood.

He was still alive. Martin took my handcuffs and cuffed him. He now lay in the garden with his hands behind his back staring up at the sky. It had only been minutes, but already his eyes were glazing over, as death set in.

I could only presume that the bullet had hit his femoral artery and he had sustained severe internal bleeding.

“Control Whisky Two Five. Please send paramedics urgently, the suspect is bleeding to death,” I called in.

A few seconds later he died.

The paramedics were still on the way, and we had a dead, handcuffed suspect.

I said to Martin, “Let’s get the cuffs off him. Have you got keys? Mine are in my bag at the station.”

I normally take a police kit bag on duty with all my additional equipment; such as spare ammunition, forensic bags, statement paper and so forth. However, on this night we couldn’t carry bags on the bikes.

My handcuff keys were also in that bag, and Martin didn’t have keys either.

I called back on the radio. “Control is there any vehicle around that can assist with a handcuff key at this scene?”

I could hear the paramedic sirens now. Just then another vehicle pulled up at the scene. The paramedics were now at the top of the road and I could see their red lights coming towards us.

I managed to remove the cuffs and stand back from the body as the paramedics walked into the garden. They inspected the suspect and declared him dead on the scene.

We waited for detectives and then walked up the road to our bicycles. It was enough drama for one night, so we cycled to the station and booked off duty.

Martin and I knew each other from our Cub Scout days at First Orangevale Boys Scout Group. We policed together for a while, until he signed up for permanent force and went to Police College in Pretoria. I came across him many years later but have lost contact since then.

Chapter 4
Killarney Mall - Cash-In-Transit Robbery

Just over a year into my policing career, my skills and conduct under fire were tested in a running gun battle at the Killarney Shopping Mall.

It was a cold winter’s day on the Highveld, with clear blue skies and a slight wind blowing. I was living with Caroline at the time. I had just dropped Caroline off at the local laundromat and drove through to the Killarney Shopping Mall to deposit a bank cheque.

I was wearing my black leather jacket that day, which concealed my 9mm pistol, which had a 12-round capacity in the magazine and one in the chamber.

I casually walked across the parking area to my car, which I had parked in the small outdoor parking section at the side entrance to the Checkers supermarket.

This entrance had a long walkway ramp accessing the parking area, which was flanked by the M1 motorway and the Killarney off-ramp from the highway.

As I sat in my car, I heard the first of three gunshots. I looked around from inside my car but saw no strange activity. The parking area was empty, except for a few shoppers pushing trolleys to their cars. I stepped out of my vehicle and placed my right hand on my firearm underneath my jacket, and at the same time, with my left hand I took out my police ID card.

Suddenly to my right, came two men running out of the supermarket side entrance door. Each suspect carried a black box, with red smoke pouring from it. One of the suspects was pointing a revolver back at the stairway doors and firing shots to prevent any pursuers from following them.

My initial thought was that they were filming a movie, and I was waiting for the director to shout, “Cut! Do that again.”

However, the action didn’t stop. There was no director to shout, “Cut.” It was at this point that I realised this was not a movie set, and I drew my pistol and got ready for a gun battle never to be forgotten.

The first suspect, holding a money box and revolver, exited the ramp and climbed into a white getaway bakkie that was parked at the bottom of the ramp. They had reversed into the parking bay for a quick getaway. His partner in crime was about to get into the vehicle when I moved forwards and shouted, “Police! Stop!”

The first suspect stopped, raised his revolver and fired a volley of shots at me. As I saw the raised revolver, I immediately moved to my right, seeking cover behind a car which was parked just two bays away. I knelt next to the passenger door and looked up so that I could get a view of the approaching suspect. He continued to move towards me and fired another two shots in my direction. One bullet came through the window from the opposite side of the car and hit the door to the left of my head, where it remained embedded in the metal.

They say you will never know how you will react under fire, until the day it happens, and today was my day. I can remember being very calm, thinking clearly and not being overcome by fear.

Moving forward for better cover behind the engine block, I thought to myself, I’m better trained and I’m going to win this fight.

I lifted my pistol over the cars bonnet and fired five rapid shots in his direction. The effect was instant. He backed off and ran for his getaway car. The suspect jumped into the passenger seat and the driver accelerated to make their getaway. I aimed at the bakkie again and managed to fire one more shot through the car’s rear window before they turned the corner of the building and disappeared from view. Cautiously I stood up and ran to the corner of the building.

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