Three undertrials escaped from police custody while they were being brought back to Bathinda central jail from a Panchkula court after opening fire at the cops, leaving one of them dead and another seriously injured, near Miserkhana, about 30 km from here, on Thursday evening.
While head constable Avtar Singh was killed on the spot, the injured constable, Mandeep Singh, has been admitted to civil hospital here.
The police said the undertrials, Jaswinder Singh, Kulwinder Singh and Nahar Singh, brothers belonging to Jai Singh Wala village of Bathinda, had also escaped from police custody before on April 21, 2011.
They said the three threw red chilli powder in the eyes of the policemen while they were being brought back in a car, snatched the rifle of one of the cops and opened fire at them. It is learnt that they had bought the chilli powder from Bhiki town of Mansa on the way back after seeking permission from the five-member police team for purchasing some eatables.
Though the police party had two SLR rifles, the attack was so sudden that the cops did not get enough reaction time to use the other one. Shaken by the incident, the driver stopped the vehicle near a roadside petrol pump, from where the undertrials fled.
Sources said the jail authorities had warned the police that the three were hardcore criminals who had escaped from police custody before.
The three brothers were first arrested by the Rajasthan police in February 2011 for separate criminal offences. The Lambi police had brought them to Punjab on production warrants, but could not keep them in the lock-up for long. They escaped from police custody about two months later and started living in Panchkula, Haryana, where they were charged with stealing a car from Chandigarh.
After returning to Punjab, they looted eight petrol pumps in Bathinda and Muktsar districts in one night on June 2, 2011, but were arrested from Bathinda two days later. Since then, they are lodged in the Bathinda jail.
Bathinda SSP Ravcharan Singh Brar could not be contacted despite repeated attempts.