Man who shot police officer while in custody gets life sentence, 18 strokes

Suhaile Md
(PHOTO: AFP file photo)

A man who grabbed a police officer’s revolver and shot him in the thumb and foot during a scuffle was sentenced to life imprisonment and 18 strokes of the cane at the High Court on Monday (19 March).

Muhammad Iskandar Sa’at was 23 at the time of the offence, which took place in June 2015. While in police custody, he had complained of chest pains and was taken to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH) where he attempted to escape. A scuffle with police staff sergeant Muhammad Sadli Razali ensued, during which the officer was shot twice.

For unlawfully possessing a firearm, Iskandar – a former deliveryman – was convicted on one charge under the Arms Offences Act, which carries a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment along with at least six strokes of the cane.

Iskandar, who is now 26, had three other charges taken into consideration for his sentencing: one for stealing a lorry, one for hurting a public servant and another for attempting to escape lawful custody.

Escape attempt

On 20 June 2015, Iskandar was being held in remand at the Ang Mo Kio Police Division when he complained of chest pains. He had been arrested the previous day in relation to a vehicle theft case.

At KTPH, a doctor requested that the restraint on Iskandar’s left arm be loosened to allow for blood to be drawn. The doctor failed to draw blood and decided to return later for another attempt.

Sadli did not re-tighten the restraint on Iskandar’s left arm as he expected it would be loosened again upon the doctor’s return. Iskandar’s feet were kept in restraints at the time.

Sometime later, Sadli left the hospital room to enquire about Iskandar’s treatment. He left his colleague sergeant Muhammad Fairuz Sutrisno in charge. While Sadli was away, Iskandar successfully appealed to Fairuz to have the restraint on his right arm loosened as well.

About half an hour later, Iskandar asked for drinks and snacks. By then Sadli had returned but was unaware that Fairuz had loosened Iskandar’s other arm restraint.

While Fairuz was out getting food, Iskandar attacked Sadli with a metal pole used to support intravenous drips. Sadli had been on his phone at the time and did not see the attack coming.

Iskandar tried to leave the room but Sadli grabbed him and a scuffle ensued. The policeman’s T-baton got dislodged in the process, prompting Iskandar to pick it up from the floor and repeatedly hit the policeman with it.

Iskandar eventually managed to leave the room and headed for a stairwell exit with Sadli hanging onto his leg. However, the exit door was locked and Iskandar attempted to change course but Sadli hampered his attempts.

As the struggle escalated, Iskandar managed to grab Sadli’s loaded .38 Taurus revolver from its holster. Sadli then pushed Iskandar back into the hospital room.

By then the commotion had drawn two paramedics to the scene. They found Sadli on the ground with Iskandar. The policeman had pinned Iskandar’s hand with the revolver to the ground.

The paramedics then jumped in to help, at which point Iskandar fired Sadli’s revolver three times in a 15-second span. One round hit Sadli’s hand and another struck his foot. The third bullet was never found although its casing was recovered.

The scuffle ended only after three uniformed security officers joined in the fray and a male doctor injected Iskandar twice with sedatives.

This was “one of the worst cases” of an attack on a police officer, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Kelly Ho. Iskandar had engaged in “wanton violence” in a “sustained” attack – first with a metal pole, then a baton, then with a gun, she said.

Among other injuries, Sadli sustained a fractured foot and had to undergo bone grafting and the insertion of metal wires for his hand injuries, Ho added. Sadli was also left with a “permanent limitation” in the use of his thumb.

Ho asked for 18 strokes of the cane on top of the mandatory life sentence.

In mitigation, defence lawyer Sashi Nathan said that his client did not engage in violence for “its own sake”. Iskandar had no intention of shooting and hurting Sadli, and his “only concern was getting away”, said the lawyer.

Nathan also noted that Iskandar’s mother was sick at the time and that he had recently found out his girlfriend was pregnant, which left him “restless”. Iskandar had wanted to see them both and for some reason could not control the impulse to escape, added the lawyer.

The lawyer asked for Iskandar to be given 12 strokes of the cane.

In his judgement, Justice Chan Seng Onn said Iskandar had “committed an extremely serious offence” and was “largely” in agreement with the prosecution. For his actions, Iskandar could have received up to 24 strokes of the cane along with the mandatory lift sentence.