A pair of suspected armed robbers exchanged gunfire with police officers pursuing them through the back streets of Prospect Saturday night.
Police picked up the trail of a red Honda SUV believed to have been used as a getaway vehicle in a hold-up at the Czech Inn in Bodden Town. Another armed robbery had occurred at a small store in George Town earlier the same night.
Police chased the vehicle, eventually cornering the suspects at a dead end on Victory Avenue, Prospect. The gunmen jumped from the car and fled on foot, firing at least three shots at the pursuing officers.
Deputy Commissioner Kurt Walton said the officers were in “real and imminent danger” and returned fire.
No one was injured in the shoot-out.
Backup patrols, including a K-9 unit, were dispatched to the scene, but the men escaped.
Mr. Walton commended the resilience of the officers, who risked their lives trying to catch the gunmen.
“The reality is that we have armed robbers that don’t want to be caught and are willing to do whatever it takes to avoid apprehension,” Mr. Walton said.
“That was clearly demonstrated by their response to the police on Saturday.”
Officers were still combing the scene for evidence at press time Sunday. Three spent bullet casings had been discovered.
The incident is the latest escalation in a series of attacks on police that has seen senior officers assaulted and vehicles damaged or set on fire in the past few months.
On Saturday, armed robbers struck first at the Rollin Convenience Shop next to the DLK bar on Seymour Drive, George Town, around 10:50 p.m.
Less than half an hour later, around 11:15 p.m., two masked men burst into the Czech Inn bar and grill, just as owner Jiri Zitterbart was closing up for the night. His wife and 9-year-old son were also in the restaurant.
Mr. Zitterbart said one of the men fired a warning shot into the roof. They sprayed a substance, believed to be pepper spray, into his face, took cash from the till and fled.
Mr. Zitterbart said his son stood behind him through the robbery, which lasted three or four minutes.
“He’s a strong boy, he’s fine. We’re fine,” he said. “I was in the army, I have seen guns before in my life. Nobody was hurt, I hope the police will find them.”
He said he had heard that men suspected of committing the robbery had fired on police later in the night. He urged police to take a tough approach.
“It is just kids that don’t want to work. Social services gives them everything and they don’t want to work,” he added.
Mr. Walton said police would be stepping up high visibility patrols and increasing their armed response capacity in the wake of the hold-ups. He said a major incident room had been set up to investigate the two robberies and the shooting at police, which follow an incident earlier in the week where a young couple were robbed at gunpoint.
“It is a big concern for us because of the marked increase in armed robberies just in the last week,” he added.
Mr. Walton said he had spoken personally with the officers involved in the shoot-out Saturday night and reassured them that the police would support them in “whatever way we can.”
He urged members of the public to do their part by providing information to investigators.
The red Honda SUV was stolen earlier the same evening and police are seeking information about sightings of that vehicle throughout the night.
More generally, Mr. Walton said police were concerned that vehicles were being stolen to be used in more serious crimes and he urged the public to be vigilant in looking out for stolen vehicles, reported by police in the media.
He also urged people to report anyone with access to firearms in an effort to prevent further robberies.
Anyone with information should call George Town police station on 949-4222, the confidential tip line on 949-777 or call Crime Stoppers anonymously on 8400-8477.