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Five seconds later and child's birthday would have ended in tragedy in Centurion restaurant shoot-out

06 June 2022 - 15:52
A family night out at Spur ended in terror after a would-be robber was shot dead in front of the Roets family on Sunday. Stock photo.
A family night out at Spur ended in terror after a would-be robber was shot dead in front of the Roets family on Sunday. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF

A family celebrating their son's 10th birthday on Sunday evening could have been shot if they had left a restaurant five seconds earlier.

Bullets fired by an off-duty security guard killed an alleged gang leader attacking a Spur restaurant in a shopping mall in Centurion. 

Right behind the gang, the Roets family had paid for their meal and were making their way to the restaurant exit when the incident occurred. 

According to police spokesperson Col Dimakatso Sello, four men attempted to rob the restaurant. One approached the manager and ordered him at gunpoint to proceed to the office without acting in a suspicious manner.

Sello said the security guard noticed this and reacted swiftly, fatally shooting the suspect while the other three fled the scene.

Patron Ernst Roets, who is deputy CEO of AfriForum, said it was only after the incident that the events became apparent. He was at the restaurant with his wife, his brother and sister-in-law and four children, aged 10, seven, six and two. His eldest was celebrating his birthday and they had decided to go to the restaurant for ice-cream.

They left just after 6pm.

“It was spontaneous,” Roets said. “We had celebrated in the morning and then decided [in the evening] to go to Spur for ice cream.

“I had paid and I was walking towards the door with my eldest and youngest sons. My wife was with the other two children.

“The shooting was right in front of us. The guy was killed and dropped to the floor right next to us. I ducked and put the children below a table — it happened so quick.

“The first few shots killed the robber. It took a second to figure out what had happened. At first it sounded like something large had fallen with a crash, something other than a firearm, then we were told to get down.”

He said the incident could have played out in various ways.

“If we had stood up five seconds earlier, then we would have been at the point when the shooting happened. It was traumatic.”

He said in the chaos, he thought his wife was right behind him but she was actually at the top of the restaurant stairs, having gone back to look for their two middle children.

“She saw there was nobody up there and was coming down when someone said 'duck'. She couldn't see me or the kids, she just heard that someone had died.”

The boys, aged seven and six, were playing outside and when the commotion happened, they ran towards their parents instead of ducking for safety.

“It was shocking for the children, but shocking for anyone — nobody should have to go through that.”

Roets believes the security guard dealt with the scenario “perfectly”.

“From what I know and understand, he saved our lives. The first shots fired killed the leader who was holding a gun. I have no qualms with his actions. He shot and yelled for us to get down.

“Then a shooting happened outside the restaurant — it sounded like someone emptied their cartridge. Those guys were there to rob but ready to kill.”

Private security companies who were summoned to the scene arrived quickly thereafter.

Roets said the restaurant had called to make sure the family was OK and he felt they had handled the situation well. 

“I took the kids to school today deliberately. Our friend is a psychologist and she and others were waiting for us when we got home last night to offer support. The children had trauma counselling. 

“My son had a test at school today so we spoke to the school to let us know if he needed to come home.”

Roets said he had made contact with the guard who fired the fatal shot at the suspected robber. He has offered to help him with legal representation if he needed it. 

According to Sello, the fatally wounded suspect was carrying a firearm with a filed-off serial number.

Emer-G-Med said its paramedics responded to the scene at about 6.30pm and found a man, about 30 years old, with fatal injuries.


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