Life term and 18 strokes for man who snatched cop's revolver and fired three shots

Muhammad Iskandar Sa'at, seen in this 2015 file photo, pleaded guilty to a single charge of having a firearm under the Arms Offences Act in causing hurt to a public servant.
Muhammad Iskandar Sa'at, seen in this 2015 file photo, pleaded guilty to a single charge of having a firearm under the Arms Offences Act in causing hurt to a public servant.PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

SINGAPORE - In one of the worst cases of assault against a police officer, a man who used the officer's baton to hit him 13 times and fired three shots that wounded him, was jailed for life and given 18 strokes of the cane in the High Court on Monday (March 19).

Muhammad Iskandar Sa'at, 26, had snatched the officer's revolver during a scuffle at the Khoo Teck Puat Hospital in Yishun on June 20, 2015, at 7.05pm as he tried to escape from custody.

Iskandar was in remand for vehicle theft after being charged in the State Courts on the same day. He had sought medical treatment and was escorted to the hospital by two officers.

The delivery man pleaded guilty on Monday to a single charge of having a firearm under the Arms Offences Act in causing hurt to a public servant. Three other charges were taken into consideration for the purpose of sentencing.

In handing down the sentence, Justice Chan Seng Onn agreed with the prosecution on the aggravating factors involved and stressed this was an extremely serious offence.

The court heard that Iskandar had first attacked Staff Sergeant Muhammad Sadli Razali with an intravenous drip pole while in a room in the hospital meant for patients under police custody.

In the struggle that followed, he forcefully hit the officer at least 13 times with the police T-baton.

The assault culminated in Iskandar snatching the revolver and firing three shots at him from close range. Two of the shots penetrated the victim's left thumb and right foot.

Deputy Public Prosecutors Kumaresan Gohulabalan and Kelly Ho said Iskandar "went to extreme lengths to try to escape lawful custody", adding that Staff Sgt Sadli "is fortunate to be alive".

"It was fortuitous that Staff Sgt Sadli managed to pull the offender onto the ground to avert a potential tragedy. At least five other persons were in the room or near the room entrance when the offender had possession of the revolver, and were thus in harm's way," said the prosecution.

Two paramedics went to Staff Sgt Sadli's aid at the time and three uniformed officers subsequently came to the room to help subdue Iskandar and remove the weapon from his hand.

When the shots were fired, Iskandar was in a supine position on the floor and his right hand holding the revolver had been pinned down by Staff Sgt Sadli.

"The potential harm is of the highest order, for anyone struck by a bullet could have suffered lethal injury. Given the high potential harm present, 18 strokes of the cane is justified," argued the prosecution.

Among other things, they noted the offence caused public disquiet and justified a deterrent punishment.

They explained: "The attack took place during visiting hours (at about 7.05pm) in a public hospital when there would invariably be significant human traffic. Such an act of wanton violence in a public place necessarily raises public disquiet and necessitates a heavier sentence.

"A number of doctors and nurses were interrupted from carrying out their usual duties by the commotion caused by the offender and the aftermath of his offending."

In his mitigation, Iskandar's assigned lawyers Shashi Nathan and Tania Chin from Withers KhattarWong said their client had struggled with drug addiction.

He had last injected himself with heroin some 27 hours before the incident and was struggling with acute withdrawal.

Mr Nathan added Iskandar's impulsive behaviour followed from his "panic and fluster" following his arrest for vehicle theft. He was also stressed as his girlfriend had also been arrested for the alleged theft.

He wanted to escape to explain himself to her family and his parents.

Counsel added that Iskandar had grabbed the gun intending to use the butt to hit the cop and at no time intended to aim the gun at anyone.

Mr Nathan said during the scuffle, both Iskandar and the police officer fell to the ground and one of the paramedics had placed a pillow over the gun. The pillow was then held by both the police officer and Iskandar.

The three shots were fired while the pillow was over the gun.

Mr Nathan said Iskandar accepted full responsibility and made no excuses for his actions, deeply regretting his folly.

After the sentencing, Iskandar broke down and his family members showed relief.

"His family and I are both deeply grateful to the prosecution for having carefully considered the circumstances and being fair in reducing the charge," said Mr Nathan.