Durban – “My dad is a superhero,” were the words a 4-year-old boy repeated to his grandmother after his father was shot protecting him at a local tuckshop in Phoenix during a robbery. Ryan Chetty, 24, was shot twice and is in Addington Hospital.
The words uttered by Chetty’s son Tylan comforted Chetty’s mother Sarah Naidoo who, along with the rest of his family, was anxiously awaiting reports on his condition. She said the first bullet went through Chetty’s right arm, through his chest and exited on the left side, missing vital organs.
“The second bullet hit him in the lower stomach and exited from his back. They shot him at close range. He has stomach complications. The robbers wanted his phone and wallet,” Naidoo said.
On Saturday afternoon, Chetty had taken his sons Tyrelle, 6, and Tylan to a tuckshop, a stone’s throw away from their home, to buy lollipops with a glow-in-the-dark sticker and bread. He had also bought a lollipop for his sister. Chetty was making the purchase when three men walked into the tuckshop. The shop, in Caneside, occupies the space of a car garage with fridges at the back and the till near the door.
Shazad Akram, the shop manager, said he was standing by the fridge when three men walked in. “They split up. My brother was behind the counter. They told me to sit down. It happened so quickly. The customer was paying for his items when they shot him. He grabbed his children and I heard another bang. They took cellphones, cellphone airtime and cash,” Akram said.
Lieutenant-Colonel Thulani Zwane, a police spokesperson said: “While the suspects were fleeing they opened fire, wounding a customer.”
Narisa Chetty said her husband grabbed the boys by their T-shirt collars and shielded them. The couple also has a 6-month-old baby who was at home when the incident happened.
“They told him to go down on the floor. I am not sure what happened in the store but my sons panicked and stepped out. They (the robbers) let off gunshots. Ryan managed to take a few steps before collapsing on the road. My sons tried holding him up on either side. They did not know what had happened. They told me they tried to bring dad home,” Narisa said.
She said they heard the gunshots but were too scared to investigate, worried about stray bullets.
“My father-in-law prevented us from going out. We only rushed out when we heard neighbours and my sons’ screams. At the same time, a suspect had walked past us without us even being aware of what had happened,” Narisa said.
Ryan’s father Clive Naidoo rushed him to Mahatma Gandhi Hospital where he was stabilised and then transported to Addington Hospital. Ryan is an engineer at Everest Flexibles, a plastic and rubber manufacturer. Clive said one of the robbers had been dressed in a domestic worker’s outfit.
“Everyone is living in fear here. It has gripped us all. Gunmen are walking around ready to pull the trigger. We have to stay indoors. Is this how we have to live? God gave Ryan a second chance to live,” Clive said.
Zwane said charges of attempted murder and robbery were opened at Phoenix police station. Glen Naidoo, director of private security company KZN VIP Unit, said that Chetty had been shot while shielding his children.
“Approximately four shots were fired and projectiles were found scattered on the road. The suspects fled in different directions in the Caneside area,” Naidoo said.
Phoenix Community Policing Forum chairperson Umesh Singh said there would be a planned shut-down of illegal tuckshops operating in the Phoenix area. Singh said the forum would engage with the town planning department, the metro police to enforce by-laws, businesses and the health department. “We understand that people need to earn an income, but we have seen tuckshops spring up willy nilly. Business hours will also be curtailed,” Singh said.