Ninh Thuan police have suspended two crime-branch police officers for shooting at a suspected motorbike thief while patrolling the south central province on June 17.
Colonel Huynh Cam, chief of the Thuan Nam District Police, told Thanh Nien News that he had asked the two involved officers to file reports on the shooting.
He declined to name them.
Doctors at the Ninh Thuan General Hospital said Wednesday that the suspected robber To Trung, 25, is no longer in critical condition following the successful removal of a copper bullet from his body.
The bullet entered Trung’s body through the left side of his abdomen, piecing through his pancreas, stomach and intestines.
According to one of Trung's family members, who asked to remain anonymous, the incident took place at around 7 p.m. on June 17 while Trung and two friends were driving their motorbikes from Ninh Phuoc to Thuan Nam District.
Because Trung’s headlight was broken, he was driving slowly behind his friend.
Upon reaching Thuan Nam District’s Phuoc Minh Commune, the relative says, two men in civilian clothes pulled up alongside them and asked them to pull over and produce their identification cards.
“Thinking the men were robbers, Trung and his friends tried to escape. The two men chased after and shot at Trung,” he said.
“Despite being injured, Trung drove into a house and asked for help,” he said. "They took him to the hospital."
Doctors said Trung was admitted to the hospital in critical condition with serious bleeding but was saved.
According to Col. Cam, the district police were engaged in an operation to bust motorbike thieves, following numerous reports about such crimes in Thuan Nam.
On June 17, several resident reported that four people were selling two motorbikes without license plates in the district’s Ca Na Commune. Col. Cam assigned the two plainclothes officers to investigate.
The duo found two abandoned motorbikes on the beach and continued to patrol.
They asked Trung to pull over after noticing that his a motorbike lacked a license plate or headlight and he was wearing a helmet that matched the complainant's description.
Cam said a police officer shot at Trung because he refused to pull even after he fired three warning shots.
“This is preliminary information based on the reports of the two involved officers,” the police official said.
“Ninh Thuan investigators are coordinating with the provincial prosecutors’ office to investigate the case. If [the officers] violated procedures, they will be punished in accordance with the law,” he said.
Nguyen Van Nam, a law lecturer at the People’s Security Academy, said the shooting was unnecessary.
“The ordinance on the use of weapons, explosives and support tools stipulates five cases in which a police officer can shoot at a perpetrator,” he was quoted by Phap Luat Thanh Pho Ho Chi Minh (Ho Chi Minh City Law) newspaper as saying. "Under no circumstances can an officer fire on a suspect."
The ordinance stipulates that police can shoot at a fleeing vehicle only when it is driven by a confirmed perpetrator--never a suspect, he added.
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