When your life is in immediate and imminent danger, or that of another person, then the use of deadly force can be justified.
However, when the details are even a little murky, as in the shooting of Len Cloete at the Misty Hills Country Hotel by a policeman on Sunday, the matter becomes a lot more complicated and raises a lot of questions.
Such as should a warning shot have been fired, or could the police member have simply wounded Cloete, who was still in a coma on Tuesday after being shot in the forehead during what was originally a low-grade disturbance complaint at the Muldersdrift lodge.
According to Paul Oxley of Gun Owners of South Africa, the situation should never have escalated to the point it did.
“It’s not a case of bad police training, it’s a case of no police training,” Oxley said.
“They were totally out of control of the situation; they should have stepped in immediately and calmed the situation.”
Oxley noted the police arrived “well after curfew”, at around 1am.
“They then allowed him to go to his vehicle and fetch a cooler box. Was he naked then? Why didn’t they arrest him then for public indecency?
“When he pulled out his firearm initially and racked a round into it, the police should have shot him already,” said Oxley.
“The cops were just spectators.”
He said it was not the police’s fault.
“It’s the fact they have no training whatsoever in how to handle these situations.
“I’m not saying they overreacted in this case. In my opinion they acted commendably in terms of restraint and not firing more than one shot.”
Cloete is the father of seven children aged from two years old to 18. His wife, Chantal, has opened a case of attempted murder.
Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union spokesperson Richard Mamabolo said it was “regrettable when law enforcement officers are conducting their duties of promoting safety and security for our citizenry that they are often subjected to abusive behaviour such as that portrayed in the clip by the person of interest, demonstrating a high level of disdain for the constitutionally mandated tasks that these officers carry out with commitment”.
“The police minister has on many funeral occasions of officers expressed that police officers should not die with their firearms by their side when they feel their lives are at risk,” Mamabolo said.
“What transpired at the Misty Hills lodge is a typical example of what our officers face daily, where police took an informed decision that is in line with the legal principles of Section 49 of the Criminal Procedure Act of 1977.”
Mamabolo said more than 40 police officials had been killed in the line of duty this year.
Doctors are believed to be waiting for Cloete’s brain swelling to go down before deciding on whether to operate to remove the bullet.
Cloete was allegedly fighting with staff members when police were called at the behest of lodge management. The video of the incident begins with a naked Cloete arguing with police while dressing and shaking his finger at them.
Dressed in underwear and a gold chain, Cloete storms to his room, saying “waar’s my gun”.
Shortly before he returns into the video, a female police officer says “now you are playing dangerous”.
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Cloete then says “who’s playing dangerous” as the sound of a pistol being racked is heard. He repeats this as he returns into the frame with his pistol in his right hand.
“You fing coward!” he screams at an unknown person, followed by “you fing asshole!”
The sound of what may be Cloete activating the safety catch on his pistol resulting in the dropping of the hammer follows the outburst, after which Cloete racks his pistol again, dropping a round on the floor which he picks up.
“Problem is, I know how to use this f***ing thing,” he says while waving the pistol in the air at shoulder height.
Head and shoulders taller than the constable, he grabs her pistol and snaps the tethering lanyard shouting, “Take that gun! Shoot me! Shoot me!”
In the process his own firearm goes flying. The video appears to show Cloete holding the police pistol by the grip, upside down.
It’s here when a policeman points his pistol at Cloete, fumbles the safety off and shoots him.
Shadrack Dumisane, who works at Cloete’s Pretoria gym, said Cloete was a father figure to him, reported the Roodepoort Rekord. “We pray day and night for his recovery.”