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Homesingapore'I was very shocked': Man testifies about being roped into raid that...

'I was very shocked': Man testifies about being roped into raid that ended with police shooting suspect

SINGAPORE: A man who was moving items for an acquaintance for a fee became roped into a police raid after he was “intercepted” by police officers who tailed him into a condominium unit where suspects in a telecommunication scam syndicate were.

Mr Loh Zheng Zhen, now 22, told a court on Thursday (Nov 9) about his shock and surprise when his acquaintance lunged at the police and the ensuing altercations resulted in a police officer drawing a handgun and shooting the alleged aggressor.

Mr Loh was giving testimony for the prosecution in the case against Prakash Mathivanan, 39, who was shot in the abdomen by the police.

Prakash, who has since recovered, is on trial for charges of voluntarily causing hurt to deter a public servant from his duty. He allegedly injured two police officers during the raid.

Prakash had been given multiple charges for offences like cheating, theft, drug-related offences, and has been sentenced to jail for most of them.

His latest jail term of five years and two months was meted out on Wednesday for charges including masterminding a scheme to cheat Singtel of S$76,666 (US$56,600) worth of handsets. This was by impersonating people whose personal particulars he had obtained from the dark web.

WITNESS TESTIFIES ABOUT HOW HE WAS INTERCEPTED BY POLICE

Mr Loh told the court that he first came to know Prakash through his polytechnic friend, Nikhil M Durgude.

On Nov 4, 2020, Nikhil contacted Mr Loh and asked for a favour to help to shift a friend’s items to an apartment at Balestier, said Mr Loh.

This friend turned out to be Prakash.

Mr Loh said he was given S$100 for his help, and accordingly went with his girlfriend to Prakash’s residence the next day to pack clothes into luggage and bags to bring to the new apartment at City Suites condominium.

Mr Loh said he had packed all the items and was headed to the car park to drive to the City Suites condo when he was intercepted by the police.

“I wanted to drive the car closer to the lift lobby so we could load up the luggage and bags easily, but then, as I was walking towards my car, this was when a police (officer) ran up towards my vehicle,” said Mr Loh.

He said the police identified themselves and told him to stop what he was doing. They showed him a photo that appeared to be a mugshot and asked if they recognised him, but Mr Loh said he did not.

He answered the police officers’ questions, and they asked to follow him to the Balestier condo.

One of the officers then drove Mr Loh’s car, with Mr Loh in it, and another police car followed them to City Suites.

The police instructed Mr Loh to text Nikhil and ask him to come down to the car park to help move the bags up.

However, Nikhil told Mr Loh to leave the bags and just go upstairs to have a talk.

The police then gave Mr Loh another set of instructions.

“They didn’t run me through what they were going to do, but they just instructed me to do like, things. They didn’t specify the whole idea or the plan,” said Mr Loh.

On the police’s instructions, Mr Loh went to the private lift lobby which had a camera-operated intercom. 

He was in the camera frame with a female police officer, who posed as his girlfriend. Two male police officers, one dressed in blue and one in pink, squatted in the blind spot of the camera so they would not be seen.

After buzzing up to the condo unit, Mr Loh was granted access and entered the lift with the three police officers.

There were other officers who did not enter the lift with them, said Mr Loh.

When the lift got to the 12th floor, Mr Loh was supposed to wait outside the lift before knocking on the door as per the police officers’ instructions.

However, when the lift doors opened, he heard the main door of the suspects’ unit being unlocked.

Instinctively, he walked towards the unit and opened the door, which was already slightly ajar.

POLICE OFFICERS RUSH IN

“Suddenly, the three police officers, they flush from behind me and entered the unit,” said Mr Loh.

Once in the unit, Mr Loh said he saw Nikhil, Prakash and a woman sitting on the sofa in the living room.

The female police officer entered the bedroom and did not exit. The two male officers headed for the living room and shouted that they were police, said Mr Loh.

The officers asked the trio to get off the sofa and squat down in the living room, he said.

The trio complied and Mr Loh said he heard Nikhil and Prakash mumbling towards each other. The male officer in blue, Senior Staff Sergeant (SSSgt) Chua Ming Cheng, shouted at them and asked them to stay quiet and stay put.

Mr Loh said he saw Prakash suddenly lunge at SSSgt Chua, who was in front of him, and grab onto his upper chest.

They began tussling.

“At first, it caught me by surprise,” said Mr Loh. “I was shocked, because I did not expect something like this would happen, as I thought the police already had the situation under control.”

He said he felt scared when he saw Prakash lunge at the police officer.

“I don’t like to see violence, or when people fight, so when I saw him attack the police officer, I was very shocked at what was happening in front of me,” said Mr Loh.

After this, the other male officer in pink, Inspector Zheng Yiyang, asked Prakash to back off, said Mr Loh.

OFFICER PULLS OUT GUN

He said he saw Insp Zheng pulling out an object from his waist area that looked like a handgun.

“He had both his hands out straight and he was pointing the handgun towards the living room, and there was a red beam or red laser dot,” said Mr Loh.

At this time, Prakash was still tussling with SSSgt Chua in front of the TV console in the living room, he said.

Amid shouting, Mr Loh said he saw Prakash turn towards the gun-wielding officer and charge at him.

“The next thing I knew, a shot (was) fired inside the apartment, right beside me,” said Mr Loh.

“At that point in time, I was very scared, so I really tucked myself into the corner and all I could think of was that I wanted to exit the apartment.”

He said he saw that Prakash was already on the pink-shirted officer and they were on the ground.

He added that he used all his force to pull on the handle of the main door, which was being blocked by Prakash and the officer in pink, and managed to exit the unit.

“I was squatting outside the apartment where I could hear a male groaning in pain from inside the apartment,” said Mr Loh.

“To my right, in the corridor, I heard there were noises and footsteps coming from the stairwell.”

He said he went to look and saw police officers behind a one-way door in the stairwell, whom he had earlier seen downstairs.

“They were trying to open the stairwell door and they couldn’t manage, and I decided to push open the door for them,” said Mr Loh.

He said two police officers entered the unit while he remained squatting outside, listening to a man groaning in pain from inside the flat.

He said he was already frightened when Prakash first attacked the blue-shirted officer, thinking that he might be in danger as well.

“Later on, he charged at the second officer, which made me even more scared, so I really wanted to get out of the place, like my fight or flight instinct told me to escape the unit,” said Mr Loh.

After that, he said he saw the blue-shirted officer, who was one of the first few to exit the unit. He was bleeding from his head, with blood flowing down his face, said Mr Loh.

Prakash was represented by Mr Jonathan Phipps of LegalStandard.

CROSS-EXAMINATION BY DEFENCE

Mr Phipps questioned Mr Loh about his version of events, asking if he heard any of the police officers using vulgarities.

Mr Loh said he did not recall.

Mr Phipps put it to Mr Loh that neither the pink nor blue-shirted officers had identified themselves as police after entering the apartment. Mr Loh disagreed.

“I put it to you that Prakash lunged at the police officer because he did not know that the blue-shirted man was a police officer at that point in time,” said Mr Phipps.

Mr Loh said he did not know if Prakash knew or not.

Mr Phipps also questioned the witness about the sequence of events, when the lights went off in the unit, when the gun went off and when Prakash came into contact with the officer in pink.

Nikhil had earlier alleged when he was charged in 2020 that the police had turned off the light and fought with his friend before shooting.

The trial continues before District Judge Wong Peck, with Deputy Public Prosecutors Daphne Lim and J Jayaletchmi for the state.

If convicted of voluntarily causing hurt to a public servant to deter them from their duty, Prakash could be jailed for up to seven years and fined or caned.

Nikhil was sentenced to nine years and 18 months’ jail and fined S$4,000 in July for offences ranging from causing hurt to deter a public servant from his duty, to drug offences.

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