Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) officials were forced to deploy firearms twice in pursuit of suspected drug dealers Monday. The suspects were traveling by truck towards Harku, southwest of the capital, and were apprehended after the PPA shot the vehicle's tires out – though not before another truck unconnected with that crime or any other had already been waylaid in the same manner.
The suspects were thought to be en route to the border crossing point at Ikla, on the Estonian-Latvian frontier, but the PPA intercepted the vehicle while it was still in Harju County.
The first truck was halted on the Tallinn-Pärnu highway, after members of K-Commando, the PPA's SWAT team, shot a tire out. The truck had failed to stop after the PPA had signaled several times for it to do so, and a chase had ensued.
On inspection, the police realized the vehicle was not the one involved in the suspected case, and its sole occupant, who was uninjured, was set free after an apology (from the PPA).
Hannes Perk, K-Commando head, said the operation was a planned sting, but still carried with it risks.
"We try to carry things out as safely as possible. Unfortunately, not all scenarios can be predicted," Perk said.
"We never know how a criminal may react when he sees the police .Do they stay still or try to escape at the last minute? In the case of drug crimes, criminals certainly attempt to jettison their substances, to hinder police evidence-gathering," he went on.
"We apologized to the driver who had been forcibly stopped during the operation, his tire was replaced, and he was sent on on his way home. We will compensate him for the damage caused," Perk added.
Some minutes later, K-Commando apprehended the real suspects and stopped their truck, also by shooting out a tire, as it proceeded from nearby Laagri. The PPA think that the suspects were headed for the Latvian border, but since the investigation is ongoing, they cannot comment further.
In the case of the first truck, the PPA had signaled the driver to stop while on a gas station forecourt, which he did not heed, going on to exit over a grassy area after damaging one of the PPA cars blocking the gas station's exit.
Once on the highway, the driver both increased speed and drove in a manner which was threatening to the two PPA vehicles in pursuit, the PPA say, before turning off down a side road.
A third police car joined arrived, after which a single targeted shot at the truck's tire caused it to stop.
The men in the second truck who were eventually detained are suspected of handling large quantities of an illicit drug, the PPA says.
In line with standard Estonian practice, the investigation is conducted by the PPA's central criminal police, under the direction of the prosecutor's office
Editor: Andrew Whyte