At 9.23 pm Sunday, a private bus crashes into and kills 33-year-old Indian national Sakthivel Kumaravelu at the junction of Race Course Road and Hempshire Road. The commotion draws a crowd.
SCDF and police are called in, but they take over 30 minutes to respond. Lifestyle blogger and DJ Dowager alleges that the police arrived before the SCDF and act aggressively towards the crowd, raising tensions. A commentator who called himself ‘Ai’ and identified himself as a police officer rebuts these allegations on his blog, saying, “We were not aggressive”, adding that “the ambulance was there to help, but was blocked by them.”
After the SCDF arrives, an SCDF paramedic pronounces the victim dead, and rescue workers move to extricate the body. The crowd attacks the rescue workers, throwing projectiles at them. The rescue workers retreat to their vehicles, and the mob turns on the private bus, the driver and the conductor. Some of the rioters force the door open and drive the bus off the road. Other rioters smash the bus windows with poles and bins.
Reddit user ‘drgoz’ says the crowd appeared to be “alcohol fuelled” and were throwing bricks, bottles and rubbish everywhere, and suggests the cause of the riot was the slow response time. drgoz is struck by a brick and leaves the scene.
Another segment of the mob turns two police cars on their sides. This creates a path for an SCDF ambulance to drive off. More people join in, cheering and striking the overturned police cars. An SCDF rescue tender behind the police cars reverses away as more police arrive, knocking a newly-arrived car aside. The mob pelts the retreating SCDF vehicle with stones and other items.
A group of rioters swarms another police car, armed with makeshift weapons. They push the car in a bid to overturn it, but fail. The driver honks the horn in an attempt to drive them off. Meanwhile, another group of rioters sets two vehicles on fire. Other SCDF personnel nearby abandon their vehicles and flee the mob on foot. Two police officers are evacuated to Tan Tock Seng Hospital for head injuries. In total, the rioters damage many police and SCDF vehicles, including 16 police vehicles. Of these vehicles, three police cars and one ambulance were set on fire, causing multiple explosions. According to the police, ‘several’ private vehicles were also damaged.
The police estimate that 400 people participated in the riot. However, videos and photos from the ground show many of them did nothing more than watch the scene up close and took videos on cameraphones. One video also showed a man trying to stop two rioters from further damaging the bus.
The Police Special Operations Command and Gurkha Contingent mobilise. 300 officers respond in all. By 11pm, the police cordon off the conflict zone, and within an hour they bring the situation under control. The police arrest 27 rioters in total. 24 are Indian nationals, two are Bangladeshi nationals, and the last one is a Singaporean Permanent Resident.
At least 18 people are reported injured, including 10 police and four SCDF personnel.
At 1.10 am, DPM Teo Chee Hean, Minister S Iswaran, and the Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner of the Police issue a press statement at the police headquarters.
DC T Raja Kumar said, “We treat this incident very seriously and we have classified the case one of rioting with dangerous weapons. We will spare no effort to arrest those who are involved.”
CP Ng Joo Hee added, “The incident that happened last night is intolerable. Wanton violence, rioting, destruction of property, fighting the police, is not the Singapore way.”
Teo Chee Hean said, “I want to make very clear that the government will not tolerate such lawless behaviour. I ask the police to investigate the matter thoroughly and deal with all aspects of this incident and all persons involved strictly, firmly and fairly, according to our laws. And I ask members of the public to stay calm, not to react to any speculation and let the facts be established.”