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Capturing the scene 30 years ago

Detained: Prebet Adam (centre) being led away after his surrender.

Detained: Prebet Adam (centre) being led away after his surrender.

TENSION was high in October of 1987 as politicians argued over topics on race and culture.

In the midst of all the debates and protests, a soldier went berserk in Chow Kit, Kuala Lumpur, fuelling talk that trouble was in the air with people gripped in fear.

When word went around that shots had been fired in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, journalists including those from The Star crime team scrambled to the scene.

Photographer Abdullah Subir and reporter Zulkefli Talib were among the pressmen who were at the scene as police cordoned off the area where soldier Adam Jaafar was holed up.

Prebet Adam had started his rampage armed with an M16 rifle on the night of Oct 18, firing shots at vehicles and a petrol station with several civilians hit.

“There were a lot of rumours on the number of shooters out there and which areas were affected,” said Zulkefli, recalling those anxious hours.

Zulkefli, who is currently assistant editor (production) in The Star, said he was assigned the next day (Oct 19) to follow the then Inspector-General of Police Tun Hanif Omar to Chow Kit.

When he arrived in Chow Kit, he found that police had cordoned off the area.

On a rampage: The first picture taken of Prebet Adam captured at the height of the drama by the Star photographer Abdullah Subir.

Then, he heard gunshots. He could see dust splattering from the ground in the distance where the bullets hit.

“Everyone immediately got on their hands and knees and ducked for cover,” said Zulkefli.

It was before the age of mobile phones. To get the news back to the office, Zulkefli had to rely on a bulky ATUR wireless telephone.

“The ATUR was so rare at the time; there was only one unit which all The Star reporters had to share.”

Abdullah, who was separated from Zulkefli that day, recalled walking along what he thought was a deserted Jalan Raja Alang, with a policeman and a civilian.

The civilian had asked the policeman to accompany him so that he could get to his car which was parked on the road.

Abdullah, who is now chief photographer at The Star, decided to walk along with them at the seemingly empty road.

But suddently the policeman and the other person turned around and ran. They had sighted Adam at a nearby burger stall.

Keeping things safe: Police cordoning off Jalan Raja Laut after the Chow Kit shooting

“I saw Adam in the distance, cradling his rifle.

“I decided to ‘shoot’, then run, taking a few snaps of him before finding cover behind a nearby van,” said Abdullah.

His image of Adam taken at about 1.30pm on Oct 19 was the first one captured of the gunman before he surrendered some two hours later.

Abdullah’s photo made it to the front page of The Star the next day, one of the most iconic shots ever taken of the drama that transfixed the nation.

Courts Crime , Prebet Adam