Shangri-La shooting: It was under special circumstances

Shangri-La shooting: It was under special circumstances
AFTERMATH: (Below) The damaged Subaru Impreza being towed away. (Inset) The police checkpoint.

Police officers did a praiseworthy job in handling the incident near Shangri-La Hotel, said security experts and former policemen.

At about 4.30am yesterday, the police opened fire at a car when its driver ignored warnings and crashed through a police vehicular checkpoint set up along Ardmore Park.

The driver of the car, a 34-year-old Singaporean man, died. Two other Singaporean men, aged 26 and 31, who were with him were arrested.

The trio were earlier stopped by police officers, who had asked for the car boot to be opened for checks.

Instead of complying, the driver suddenly accelerated and sped towards Anderson Road.

Despite police warnings to stop, he continued to crash through police barricades.

Police opened fire at the car to stop further danger, they said in a statement released at 8am yesterday.

Commenting on the shooting yesterday, lawyer Luke Lee, a former policeman, said it was largely related to the Shangri-La Dialogue held at the Shangri-La Hotel, just a few minutes' walk from where the incident took place.

The annual three-day security summit, which ended yesterday, involves defence chiefs, security analysts and academics from various countries.

"Times have changed. We're living in the times of suicide bombers and terrorists. Meetings like the Shangri-La Dialogue could be a target of attacks," said Mr Lee.

"(Singapore is responsible) for the security of the high-ranking officials attending the event."

Following the shooting, the police said they found substances believed to be controlled drugs and an item believed to be a drug-taking utensil on the two men arrested.

Police added that the driver and one of the two men arrested were wanted by the authorities for various offences.

The 31-year-old man was injured in the incident and sent to a hospital.

Police and officers from SAF's Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Explosives Defence Group (CBRE) also searched the car and did not find explosives, arms or weapons. A bag containing white powdery substances believed to be controlled drugs was found.

'DECISIVE ACTION'

Security expert Yang Razali Kassim, a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said: "I would not think the decisive action by the security authorities would have occurred under ordinary circumstances.

"But the incident leading to the action came hot on the heels of a disclosure at the Shangri-La Dialogue of plans to assassinate Singapore leaders, in particular the President and the PM.

"It is not surprising therefore that the security authorities would be on high alert."

Due to the Shangri-La Dialogue, which is in its 14th year, security measures including vehicle and person checkpoints were put in place in the vicinity of Shangri-La Hotel.

Auxiliary police officers and Gurkha officers were also seen in the area, which is also home to high-end residences like Shangri-La Apartments and Ardmore II.

As far back as 2004, the police had already been setting up large tents with lights at every entry route to Shangri-La Hotel, where police officers could scrutinise each vehicle.

At the hotel, scanning devices are also deployed to check cars for hidden bombs.

Mr Lee said the police response to the driver was a little different from the usual, because of the heightened state of security as a result of the summit held there.

"(As a cop) I ran a roadblock once. We were conducting an operation and I thought that one of the officers recognised me so I went through.

"They chased me, but they didn't shoot. The normal rules are to chase and radio ahead," he said.

Retired police officer Lionel De Souza said it was understandable that the police opened fire yesterday.

"If I were in their shoes, my first thought would be that the occupants of the car were there to cause harm to the participants of the Dialogue, or even if they were not targeting anyone in particular, that they were there to cause mayhem," he said.

Private investigator and former police officer Davy Chan said he was happy to read about the way the police handled the situation.

"I'm glad the officer dared to take action when the safety of his fellow officers was threatened.

"It's also good because they are showing criminals that the police are a force to be reckoned with," he said.

However, Mr Lee said: "In my 16 years of serving in the force, I've not come across something close to this. Usually, opening fire is a last resort."

Mr Lee said the last public shooting he recalled was in 2008, when a 43-year-old mental patient charged at a police officer with a knife and was shot dead. The incident, which took place at Outram Park MRT station, was ruled to be a justifiable homicide in 2010.

Preliminary investigations into yesterday's shooting indicate that it was an isolated incident.

Police investigations are ongoing.

- Additional reporting by Marie Lim

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