Hong Kong police today insisted that a traffic cop who shot a protester with his service revolver in Sai Wan Ho this morning “had no bad intentions” and thought his gun was going to be snatched away.
Speaking to reporters at a regular police press conference this afternoon, Chief Superintendent John Tse said that officers were deployed to Sai Wan Ho to disperse and tackle “radical protesters” who had built barricades on roads and were blocking traffic at about 7am this morning.
“Our officers arrived to disperse the mob and to clear the roads,” Tse said. “One traffic officer, who was not in riot gear, arrested a person. Then several others surrounded him. The officer pulled out his service revolver as a warning. However, the protester did not stop attempting to snatch the revolver.”
He then goes on to say that the officer believed that his gun would be snatched, and that “the consequences would be disastrous. Death and casualties would have resulted,” prompting the officer to fire three shots, one of which hit one man — later identified as a 21-year-old surnamed Chow — in the abdomen.
Tse’s characterization of the events in question, however, doesn’t appear to comport with the video evidence. In the video from the scene, the officer is seen walking away from a group of protesters and pedestrians seemingly unmolested when he suddenly wheels around and puts his hand on his gun several feet from the nearest protester, who appears to be unarmed.
He then draws the gun and walks towards the protester, pressing the muzzle into the man’s chest before grabbing him in a headlock an apparent effort to arrest him. It was unclear why the officer drew his gun in the first place.
As another unarmed protester begins to slowly approach, the officer, still grappling with the initial suspect, levels the gun at him. The protester appears to swat at the weapon, at which point the officer shoots him at close range in the torso.
Seconds after the shot is fired, a third protester attempts to grab the cop from behind, at which point he wheels around, scuffles with the protester for an instant, and fires two more shots, at which point the third protester falls. Police have maintained that only one person was actually shot, however. The initial suspect, meanwhile, appears to get away in the confusion.
Tse said today that the case is under investigation by the Hong Kong Island regional crime unit, and that “we certainly believe that the officer did not have bad intentions to hurt anyone.”
He also said that since the shooting, the officer has been doxxed, and that death threats have been made against him and his children.
Tse comments came hours after it was confirmed that the victim, a 21-year-old man surnamed Chow, was in critical condition following surgery at Eastern Hospital, and was recuperating in the Intensive Care Unit.
Pro-democracy lawmaker Ray Chan said over Facebook that Chow was an alumnus of the Salesian School, the same high school that Chan himself went to. Chan wrote that the school’s principal had been in touch to confirm that Chow was conscious when he entered the operating room and that the bullet has been removed.