Police shot dead five suspected bank robbers, who had struck twice within a month, in an encounter in a south Chennai housing colony in the early hours of Thursday.
Police said the five, four from Bihar and one from West Bengal, had looted Rs 33 lakh from two banks in the city’s suburbs.
Acting on a tip-off from a person who had spotted a suspect from a closed-circuit television grab released on Wednesday, around 1 am, a police team surrounded a house in Velachery the suspects had rented in December.
“Our team had gone to the house to verify the information. But when the people inside started shooting at our team, and continued to do so even after warning that it might hurt innocent neighbours who had come out due to commotion, we had to retaliate,” Chennai (city) police commissioner JK Tripathy said.
“We had to break open the door and go inside even as the firing from inside continued. Two police officials suffered gunshot injuries and were admitted to hospital,” he added.Police named the slain robbers as Vinod Kumar, Chandrika Ray, Harish Kumar, Vinay Prasad (from Bihar) and Abhay Kumar (West Bengal).
According to the police, the gang led by Vinod — dropout from a Tamil Nadu-based private university — had looted Rs 19 lakh from the Perungudi branch of the Bank of Baroda on January 23. On February 20, the gang had looted Rs 14 lakh from the Keelkattalai branch of the Indian Overseas Bank.
Police said five pistols, two revolvers, some cartridges and a bag with Rs 14 lakh were recovered from the house in the lower middle class colony.
Even as police claimed to have cracked the case, rights activists questioned the police account and termed the encounter fake.
The timing of the encounter is among the discrepancies raised by activists, especially with Velachery locals claiming police had asked them at 10pm on Wednesday to stay indoors and switch off lights.