A 14-year-old girl died when a retired customs superintendent went on a shooting spree and had a gun battle with the police in a middle-class locality in Andheri.
Harish Maroliya (57), who had taken premature retirement from service, also died later. Hemani Mehta was a class IX student of A H Wadia High School, Andheri.
Additional Commissioner of Police (West Region) Amitabh Gupta said, “ It’s only after the medical test can we ascertain whether the girl was killed by the accused or during the exchange of fire with the police.”
Maroliya had a tiff with a neighbour about the renovation work the latter was doing in his flat. According to eyewitness accounts, Maroliya first threatened the building’s watchman against letting in any workers on the premises.
When his neighbour and other building residents objected, he fired two rounds in the air with his .32 licensed revolver.
“I saw my father being threatened by Maroliya near the building gate,” said Romil Patni (20), son of Deepak Patni, secretary of the housing society.
Witnesses said that after firing the shots, he was rushing to his flat when he saw Hemani returning home from school.
“Without provocation he picked her up. When we appealed to him to release her, he fired one more shot at the wall,” said a resident, refusing to divulge his name.
Maroliya took Hemani to his flat and locked the main door while the residents called the police.
An armed combat team, deployed at each police station in the city post-26/11, went to the spot and appealed to Maroliya to surrender and release Hemani.
Maroliya, instead, opened fire, forcing the police to break open the door and retaliate, the police said. He died in the shootout.
“The girl was lying on the ground. There was not a drop of blood oozing out of her,” said K.M.M. Prasanna, the deputy commissioner of police.
“Initially, we thought that she must have lost consciousness. At the hospital, she was declared dead.”
Preliminary medical examination revealed that she had been shot in the spinal cord.”