It was at first a typical trip to the mall for Station Inspector Sofian Othman.
The 35-year-old police officer, who was on his day off, was leaving Bedok Mall at around 6pm last Wednesday (27 December) after picking up a takeaway dinner when an unusual commotion caught his attention.
A seemingly disoriented 18-year-old boy, who was armed with a pair of 10cm-long scissors, was shouting aggressively and gesticulating wildly at bystanders, causing some to flee.
He had gone into eight stores, breaking display racks and destroying products. The damage to one shop was estimated to amount to $2,100.
Sofian observed the teenager for a minute from a safe distance and waited until the boy was distracted before making a move to quickly snatch away the scissors. Then, on his signal, Sofian and four male members of the public who had been observing the scene rushed in from behind to pin down the unruly teen outside watch store H2 Hub.
Speaking to the press at a media conference on Thursday, Sofian said he was heartened by the public’s quick reaction to help.
“I am quite happy and heartened that members of the public were alert and (naturally) came forward to assist in a situation that was chaotic, even though they know the subject was armed with a weapon,” said the officer.
Despite being pinned down by Sofian and the four men, described as being in their 30s, the teenager was still behaving aggressively.
In a bid to calm him down, Sofian offered the teenager a bottle of mineral water – part of his takeaway dinner – and engaged him in a conversation.
“(I tried) to find about his condition and whether he was injured or needed medical attention… He mentioned he was on medication but didn’t have it on him,” said Sofian.
The teenager, who has a history of mental health problems, was arrested for public nuisance by Sofian’s colleagues who arrived at the scene shortly after.
While Sofian, who has 14 years of experience in the force, has previously had to intervene in minor arguments while off-duty, none were as severe as the incident on 27 December.
“I think it’s a policeman’s instinct when you see something that is not right. Your first instinct is that you don’t want him to cause harm to others and damage property,” he added.
Police investigations into the Bedok Mall incident are in progress.
Whoever causes public nuisance can be punished with a fine up to $1,000.