Grenade blast in attempted exchange office heist kills robber, injures six

Photo: CTK

One of the most violent cases of attempted robbery seen in the Czech Republic in some years took place on Thursday. A man who tried to rob an exchange office in the town of Krnov was detained by customers and staff, but when he was being arrested, a grenade went off, killing the perpetrator and injuring six others, four of them police officers.

Photo: CTK
Just before 2:30 on Thursday afternoon, a man walked into an exchange office inside a shopping mall in the north-eastern town of Krnov. He was armed with two or three hand grenades and a pistol, and told the woman behind the counter to give him all her cash.

But she refused, and screamed for help; her action deterred the man who left the office and tried to walk away. While still inside the shopping centre, costumers and salespeople detained him. In the skirmish, the man fired his gun but hit no one; a woman grabbed a grenade from his hand and threw it away.

The police arrived just minutes later; an off-duty officer, who happened to be in the mall, was also present. When they were handcuffing the robber, one of the remaining grenades went off, killing the man and injuring six other people; including all the police officers present.

The police said the explosion would have been much more devastating had it not been for one of the officers, who threw himself onto the robber and pinned him to the ground moments before the blast. The explosion blew the robber’s body into pieces, and severely wounded the 33-year-old policeman. One of the witnesses spoke to Czech Radio shortly after Thursday’s incident.

“The policeman did a great thing, what should I say. He is a hero. Who would do such a thing? Anybody else would’ve run away. We live here just above the department store; we heard a bang, and thought that some scaffolding had fallen down, because they keep renovating houses in the area.”

Photo: CTK
The policeman was flown to hospital and underwent an operation; his condition is reported as stable. As for the perpetrator, police say the extent of the explosion means they have as yet been unable to identify him. Witnesses said he spoke Czech with an “Eastern Slavic” accent.

Meanwhile, the regional police chief, Tomáš Tuhý, says such violence is unparalleled.

“I don’t know of any similar robbery with explosives attempted in the past. These kinds of places – banks, exchange offices – have of course been targeted before. Sometimes the robbers have fake guns, but they also have real ones. However, in this region we have never seen such a devastating incident.”

Police say they are seeing more violent robberies than previously, with criminals prepared to use greater force than in the past. Over one hundred bank and exchange office robberies were recorded between January and August. That compares to 116 such crimes last year, and 86 in 2008.