Man sets shop on fire after luring police with 119

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Man sets shop on fire after luring police with 119

POHANG, South Gyeongsang - At 2:53 p.m. on Saturday, at a bike repair shop in Hyoja-dong, the owner of the shop, a 48-year-old man surnamed Bok, was in a confrontation with police officers.

At 2:34 p.m., Bok had called the 119 emergency rescue service, equivalent to 911 in the U.S., and said, “I will blow up this bike repair shop in five minutes if you don’t bring my live-in girlfriend.”

The man told the 119 dispatcher he had rigged the place to explode.

The 119 service immediately reported the case to Nambu Police Precinct, and seven police officers were dispatched to the scene at 2:43 p.m. “We were immediately able to smell gas when we arrived,” one police officer said.

The officers looked into the shop and knocked on the door, asking Bok to open the door several times.

About 10 minutes later, the officers made it inside after breaking windows. The police officers saw that two hoses connected to LPG canisters were cut, leaking gas.

The officers opened the door to Bok’s room and grabbed him by the arms and upper body, but couldn’t stop him from flicking his lighter. The place exploded.

Seven police officers, including a 54-year-old officer surnamed Kim, suffered severe burns. About 40 percent of Kim and Bok’s body, including their faces were burned.

Kim and Bok were sent to Hallym University Medical Center in Yeongdeungpo, northern Seoul, via helicopters immediately where they are now in critical condition.

Other police officers suffered second-degree burns on their faces and legs and were sent to a hospital in Daegu as well as to a local hospital.

The police later said that the bike repair shop owner was arguing with his live-in girlfriend about 15 million won ($13,500) in credit card debt.

The police are drawing criticism for poor handling of the case. They were clearly informed of the explosion threat from the 119 center, but they went inside the building without protection anyway.

They also didn’t handcuff the suspect after arresting him, giving him a chance to ignite the gas-filled space.

According to the police’s correspondence manual Article No. 241, the police must keep their distance from a potentially dangerous place and must request help from a police SWAT team that can handle explosive ordnance.

By Kim Yoon-ho [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]

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