The minister of police and a former police constable have been found liable for a shooting incident at an Alberton nightclub in which a soccer club coach was paralysed.
Judge Bert Bam ruled in the High Court in Pretoria that the police minister and former police constable Leonard Titus must compensate Dino Peterson, 36, of Eden Park in Alberton, for the damages he suffered as a result of the shooting in the nightclub eight years ago.
Peterson was hit four times in the back and one of his friends was killed when Titus, seemingly at random, opened fire with his service pistol inside the busy club early one morning in July 2009.
Peterson, who owns and coaches a soccer team, was rendered a permanent paraplegic as a result and is confined to a wheelchair.
He instituted a claim of over R11.38 million against the police minister and Titus for massive medical and related costs, loss of earnings, permanent disability, trauma and disfigurement.
Bam said it was not altogether clear what exactly had happened that night but it appeared that Titus and another detective, armed with their service pistols, were at the bar when someone fired a shot inside the club.
An altercation broke out between a young man and the manager and Peterson also became involved in the scuffle, during which he was hit with a bottle.
After things quietened down, Peterson and his friend moved away, but shots rang out and he was struck four times in the back.
He fell down and his friend was fatally struck by two bullets.
Peterson and the club’s manager testified that Titus had fired the shots that hit Peterson. Although the police claimed in court papers that Peterson had been shot “in self-defence”, neither Titus nor his colleague testified in court.
Four cartridge casings found at the scene were later forensically linked to Titus’ service pistol.
Bam said the finding was inescapable that Titus had unlawfully and indiscriminately discharged his firearm in the nightclub in reaction to some or other threat and that he had mistakenly fired the shots that hit Peterson.
He found the minister was vicariously liable for what Titus did as he was armed with his police pistol and arrived and left the scene in a police vehicle.