Friday, November 04, 2005

Max the gorilla shooter's death riddle

Isaac Mofokeng, a housebreaker who became infamous after shooting Max the gorilla while trying to escape arrest, has died.

Mofokeng, 38, who had been a patient at Weskoppies psychiatric hospital in Pretoria for the past two years, died after swallowing pills he took while nursing staff were tending to other patients.

But his family are suspicious of the circumstances surrounding his death, and want an explanation.

Police had been searching for Mofokeng regarding several house robberies and a rape case when he was finally caught on July 18 1997, pinned down by the 180kg lowland gorilla.

That morning, Mofokeng is alleged to have been accosted by a Saxonwold homeowner who caught him on his property.

Mofokeng pulled out a gun, prompting the man to sound the alarm and call the police.

Parktown officers responded quickly and chased Mofokeng, who headed into the Johannesburg Zoo and jumped over a wall to hide.

But he had unintentionally picked the gorilla enclosure, where he encountered Max - who was angered by the intrusion.

Mofokeng fought back when Max bit him, and shot the raging animal in the chest and neck.

Three police officers barrelled into the enclosure, and all three were injured by Max. During the scuffle, Mofokeng was shot in the groin.

Max eventually calmed down after being shot with a tranquilliser dart. He was then taken to Milpark Hospital, where he underwent surgery. He made a full recovery.

Mofokeng went on trial and was sentenced to 40 years in jail for a number of crimes, including rape. Five years related to his shooting Max.

Story here.

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