Police shot a man in the shoulder in Hong Kong’s Sha Tin district on Thursday morning, ending a wild 8km car chase that left three others injured.
Officers had earlier stopped the car after its licence was found to have expired, but the driver sped off in his vehicle with police in pursuit. After the shooting, suspected burglary tools were found in the car, prompting further investigations.
The suspect was sent to Prince of Wales Hospital for treatment of injuries to his right shoulder. The 45-year-old man, surnamed Hung, was said to be in a critical condition after surgery to remove the bullet.
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His 37-year-old girlfriend and a two-year-old child in her arms, who were passengers in the car, were reportedly unhurt. But a 65-year-old female passenger in another private car, a 52-year-old male taxi driver and two male police officers suffered minor injuries in the chase, which ended with the vehicle sandwiched between two taxis.
Traffic officers were scanning the number plates of passing cars on Tolo Highway near Ma Liu Shui at 9.53am when they discovered the suspect’s silver Honda Civic vehicle was carrying a licence that had expired in 2015.
Officers ordered Hung to stop the car. But, he sped off and zigzagged along Tai Po Road and then Sha Tin Road, where he drove in the opposite direction of traffic and headed towards Prince of Wales Hospital on Ngan Shing Street. During the attempted escape, the vehicle jumped four red lights and slammed into a bus, two private cars, two taxis and a police vehicle.
A widely circulated online video filmed from the dashcam of one of the affected taxis shows the suspect’s vehicle caught among other motorists. The driver tries to squeeze his car past traffic, before two officers appear in the frame, guns drawn. He then rams his vehicle back and forth into others in a bid to escape, with the officers dodging the desperate attempts.
The car, its rear bumper crumpled and hanging off, then reverses and smashes into the front of the taxi with the dashcam, as an officer out of frame opens fire while his colleague is seen on the left side of the car pointing his gun and smashing its window with a baton.
“We tried to stop the car … but the driver continued his escape, refused to open the door and hit more cars,” said Chief Inspector Ng Tak-nam from the New Territories South regional crime squad.
“Even when his car was trapped [on Ngan Shing Street], he continued to smash into other vehicles. We think that pulling the gun in such a situation is lawful and reasonable.”
Ng said the chase would have endangered more road users and even officers during the busy traffic hour if the driver had not been shot. He said his colleagues had given multiple warnings during the six-minute chase and that the shooting met guidelines on the use of force.
While searching the car, officers found suspected burglary tools such as hammers, gloves and pliers.
Ng said Hung was not the owner of the car. Hung, who said he was a part-time construction worker, was arrested for at least six offences, including dangerous driving, furious driving and driving without a valid licence.
He and his girlfriend, surnamed Wong, were both held for possession of an instrument fit for unlawful purposes, an offence carrying a maximum term of two years’ imprisonment.
Ng added the couple had criminal records and triad backgrounds. Police are searching for the car owner.
The force was equipped with a new version of the automatic number plate recognition system in 2019 to enhance traffic enforcement efficiency. It automatically scans number plates of passing cars and compares them with a database to identify illegal vehicles.
The system is used to identify unlicensed vehicles, those licensed to disqualified drivers and those licensed to people wanted on outstanding traffic warrants. The system also helps officers locate stolen vehicles.
Shootings by Hong Kong police are a relatively rare occurrence. In February, a police officer fired his gun in an attempt to stop a car from running him over in Tai Po during a drug bust.
The bullet hit the windscreen of the Lexus, which slammed into a railing and overturned outside a public housing block in Fu Heng Estate. The uninjured driver, 23, tried to flee but was subdued by police. The female passenger suffered a minor shoulder injury.
Police arrested the duo on suspicion of trafficking in a dangerous drug after 12 packets containing about seven grams of suspected cocaine were found in the car. The man was also arrested for dangerous driving. Another male suspect at the scene, 31, was also detained for drug trafficking.