A senior policeman, a wanted criminal and a member of the community died in a shootout in Mpumalanga on Tuesday morning.
Captain Million Khumalo, the head of Komatipoort police detectives, and three of his colleagues had just cornered David Mhlongo in Daantjie near Nelspruit at about 9am when all hell broke loose.
Mhlongo, 48, had been wanted by the police on a charge of attempted murder following an incident in which he allegedly shot at police officers investigating a house robbery in Komatipoort on May 16.
He managed to run away at the time and the police received information that he was in the Daantjie area and would be meeting officials from the Nelspruit prison to sign for his parole.
Mhlongo was under correctional supervision after having been released on parole from prison.
However, police could not immediately say for how long he had been in prison and for what offence.
Mpumalanga police spokesman Sibongile Nkosi said Mhlongo was in a hall at a local satellite police station when he saw Khumalo, 45, and his team entering through the door.
"It seems he knew Khumalo very well because he immediately produced a gun and fired several shots in the police's direction," said Nkosi yesterday.
People scattered in all directions and Mhlongo ran out of the hall with the already injured Khumalo after him.
Khumalo managed to shoot at Mhlongo several times before both of them collapsed and fell unconscious.
It was later established that a member of the community who was apparently also coming to sign for his parole had been shot during the exchange of gunfire.
The three injured were taken to the local clinic where they were all certified dead on arrival.
Khumalo had joined the police service in 1985 and was well known in media circles because he used to be a police spokesman for many years.
Police said they had the name of the third deceased but could not release it as they were still trying to contact his next of kin.