Policeman shot in Khoo Teck Puat hospital

From ‘Shooting case at hospital:Man could face death penalty’, 22 June 2015, Today

The police have classified Saturday’s incident at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, where a police officer was shot, as an unlawful discharge of firearms under the Arms Offences Act, an offence that carries the death penalty. The suspect, a 24-year-old Singaporean man who was arrested for motor vehicle theft on Friday, will be hauled to court this afternoon on this holding charge

…The suspect, who was under remand for further investigations into his alleged motor vehicle theft, had complained of chest pains on Saturday and was escorted by police officers to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital to seek medical attention.

At about 7.05pm, while inside one of the hospital’s examination rooms, which are not accessible to the public, the suspect attempted to escape and struggled with one of the officers. TODAY understands that the suspect had attacked the 31-year-old officer while his colleague stepped out of the room. The suspect is believed to have taken hold of the officer’s baton and used it to beat the latter.

He then snatched the officer’s revolver and discharged three rounds, before he was subdued and the situation was brought under control. The accused sustained superficial injuries.

The death penalty for using a gun on another person, even with just the intention to cause hurt,  came into force in 1974, signed off by then President Benjamin Sheares. ‘Firearms’ also includes air pistols, air guns and even flamethrowers, according to the Arms Offences Act. In fact, you don’t even need to aim your weapon at a living thing to get convicted with a possible death sentence. The law states:

“…any person who uses or attempts to use any arm shall, until the contrary is proved, be presumed to have used or attempted to use the arm with the intention to cause physical injury to any person or property.”

The lesson here then, is unless you’re a soldier or a cop, hands off anything that fires pellets, missiles or bullets. Even threatening people with a toy gun, or what the law describes as an ‘imitation arm’, can land you 10 years in jail and 3 strokes of the rotan. What’s not clear is whether you’ll still get death if your gun is not loaded and you’re using it just to scare your target like an imitation arm. What will happen to you if you shot people in the knee with a bow and arrow, or a catapult at close range for that matter? Or what if you managed to disarm a robber of his pistol and was forced to fire it near his feet to scare him away? As Mr Bean taught us, you could create havoc just using your bare hand as an ‘imitation arm’.

The first death sentence for such a crime was doled out to Sha Bakar Dawood in 1976, who wounded 3 people in a brothel and fired at the police. A year earlier, an accomplice to an armed robbery was sent to the gallows as well, despite him voluntarily surrendering to the police. For decades our strict gun control laws kept us safe from gang robberies and mass slaughters, that is until 2005 when Chestnut Drive Secondary School was mysteriously attacked by a suspected sniper with an air-gun. Not sure if the culprit was ever caught, though thankfully no one was hurt during the onslaught.

It’s a terrible idea to try to snatch a policeman’s revolver, not only because you risk being sent to the hangman’s, but you may get shot or even killed before your execution in the ensuing struggle. In the mid 80’s, a motorcycle thief was shot in the abdomen in failed attempt. 2 men died within the span of 20 days in 1984 while playing tug-of-war with armed police. In 1985, a 19 year old was hit in the chest and died after trying to grab a PC’s revolver. In his defence, PC Tay Kok Thong had just wanted to fire a shot to ‘scare him away’. In the same year, an escaping burglar was fatally shot in the neck.  In the KTPH case, the policeman had it worse off, but would the accused still get the death penalty even if he was shot in the face at the same time that the cop got his hand blown off, and survived?

I trust that our police are drilled in dealing with gun-snatch situations without the trigger being pulled and accidentally killing someone. Still, if you’re a revolver thief, you may try sneaking up on a detective while he’s fooling around with his girl in a park, or grab his bag while he’s swimming, instead of trying to yank it out of his holster. For the moment, there is no punishable-by-death law against the ‘unlawful wielding of a knife or equivalent sharp object’, even though you can just as well kill someone at close range with a stabbing weapon. Such a law, however, could probably put an end to secret society gangfights and domestic kitchen disputes once and for all.

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