On 28 February 2016, a troubled woman reported her estranged husband at the SAPS in Virginia. She told the police officials that he was in her car and posed a threat to her and their daughter. She also mentioned that they were caught up in a divorce battle and that she had to spend the night at a friend's home for her safety and that of their child. When she got to her car, she found her agitated husband waiting for them at the car.
He refused to leave her alone and as she drove to a shopping centre, he still refused to get out after she had parked her vehicle. She then went inside the shopping mall and to a pharmacy. When she got there, she made a call to a friend to fetch her and her daughter. They then drove to the Community Service Centre (CSC) with her friend's car where she filed a domestic violence complaint.
Const A C Cronjé and Const T M Tseisi of Virginia Vispol were on duty and responded to the complaint. When they arrived at the parking lot at the Virginia shopping centre and got to the woman's car, they found a man sitting inside, reading a newspaper, with one door open. The two police officials identified themselves to the man and asked him to get out of the vehicle. He obliged, but it was then when the police officials noticed that he was armed.
He was asked to hand over his firearm, but instead, he immediately pulled it out and pointed it at Const Cronjé. The member instinctively pushed his colleague out of harm's way, he then took cover and the two officials drew their firearms. The man was instructed to put the firearm down, but he blatantly refused. Then suddenly, in the midst of everything, he pointed the firearm at his own head.
The police officials were afraid that he might harm innocent bystanders, so they started walking closer to him with the aim of pushing him away from the parking area. Then the man shouted at the police officials: "You can shoot me Ntate! Shoot me." As he said that, he pointed his firearm at Const Cronjé's face and pulled the trigger. Luckily, he missed the constable's face and hit his left hand. Const Cronjé returned fire, from which the man was hit in the head, but the constable was hit two more times by this man including as he was falling to the ground when a last shot hit Const Cronjé in his right ankle.
Neither Const Tseisi nor bystanders were hit. There was minor damage to a parked vehicle and a shop window due to the shooting on that fateful day. Const Cronjé's actions ensured that his colleague's life was saved when he pushed him out of harm's way. He also prevented bystanders from getting injured by pushing the man away from the parking area.
An investigation into the affair revealed that a protection order had been issued against the deceased and that he had earlier threatened to kill his wife and daughter. That was evident from him sitting in his estranged wife's vehicle with a loaded firearm.
Following the incident, Const Cronjé was described by Virginia SAPS's station commander, Lt-Col L Potgieter, as a police member who is hardworking and vigilant. He leaves no stone unturned when he is on duty and renders a professional service. Const Cronjé is loved by his community, displays impeccable discipline and is truly an ambassador of the values of SAPS as custodians of law and order.
Const Cronjé has done several courses to empower him to be an effective and well-trained police official. From this incident it is evident that Const Cronjé's training played a huge part as he was able to fast and effectively assess a volatile situation saving his partner and bystanders. He truly is a hero and deserves to be commended.
Servamus was provided with this information from which we compiled this contribution. We want to applaud Sgt Arno Cronjé for his courage and bravery, but we fail to understand why the SAPS has not yet recognised his actions with a merit award, especially since the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, Adv Maphumulo, declined to prosecute the member but rather recommended him for a merit award for saving the lives of the mother and her daughter.
Servamus will provide feedback whenever we receive a reason as to why this member has not yet received an award. Ed.