A man who fired a live round at officers in Tai Po on Friday night was involved in another case centred on the seizure of bombs and firearms linked to anti-government protests, a police source has said, adding that more suspects could be at large.
The force also warned that an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle seized in a follow-up flat raid was the same model used in the 2017 Las Vegas shooting which killed 58 people, adding that the weapon could cause severe casualties as it had a range of up to 800 metres.
As of Saturday evening, the 18-year-old suspect was still in police custody for questioning.
“Intelligence and initial investigation showed he was part of the syndicate that involved plots to attack police with bombs and firearms at the massive anti-government march on December 8,” the force insider said.
Police said that when officers, acting on intelligence, intercepted the man at the Jade Plaza residential estate just after 9.20pm, he pulled a semi-automatic pistol from his waist and fired one round at them. The bullet did not hit anyone.
After they arrested the suspect, surnamed Su, officers raided a flat at the estate where they seized the AR-15 with 211 rounds of ammunition – 61 rounds in a speed loader and the rest in five magazines.
Senior Superintendent Steve Li Kwai-wah from the Organised Crime and Triad Bureau said 44 hollow-point rounds for the P80 pistol the suspect used were collected from the crime scene and the flat they raided. A shell from the gun was also picked up at the scene of the shooting.
“The firearms and ammunition found match the intelligence we collected, which is about someone planning to use guns in public assemblies to hurt people, including officers on duty” Li said, adding that the suspect did not hold any firearm licence.
He said the pistol and ammunition seized on Friday night were of the same make as those found during an earlier raid in a North Point flat.
The arrested man was identified as a suspect detained last December for illegal possession of firearms. He had been in custody until February 28 this year when he was released on bail. Police said he had breached bail conditions on December 8, when the mass march was held.
Another police insider said he believed the suspect assembled the rifle in stages, and that it posed a tremendous threat to public safety.
Riot police arrived at the scene soon after the incident to provide support for officers who were escorting the hooded and handcuffed suspect when they were confronted by an angry crowd.
Objects were thrown at the officers from above.
Police initially raised a warning flag, then fired tear gas at the crowd at around 11pm. They fired another round almost an hour later in an attempt to disperse a crowd that lingered near the scene.
Commissioner of Police Chris Tang Ping-keung also visited the site after midnight, and stayed for about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, the Hong Kong Journalists Association condemned police in statement on Saturday evening, accusing the force of brutality on reporters during the incident in Tai Po. The group claimed police used a baton to hit a reporter from local outlet Stand News and pepper-sprayed others, adding that officers had affected press freedom.
Earlier this month, police seized two powerful home-made bombs and batches of weapons, including a semi-automatic pistol, believed to be intended for use against officers during protest clashes. The arrested suspects have been brought to court.
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