Yishun woman held at knife-point: Police share biggest challenge in taking man down -- and how they did it

Stakes were high as police officers tried to diffuse a "potentially life-and-death situation" in which a man held a woman at knife-point earlier this month.

But despite an air of unpredictability surrounding the stand-off, which occurred along Yishun Ring Road on Jan 9, the police managed to swiftly subdue the man.

Videos circulating on social media show police officers, including those from the Ground Response Force (GRF) and Emergency Response Team (ERT), engaging with the man as he held the 60-year-old woman at knife-point.

Mohamed Faizal Mohamed Ariff, 42, was subsequently disarmed and arrested. He can be seen being pinned down by police officers at the scene.

Mohamed, whose urine tested positive for controlled drugs, has been charged with possessing an offensive weapon in a public place.

In a media interview on Friday (Jan 20), four Singapore Police Force officers recounted how they managed the situation and ensured everyone's safety.

They are​​​​​ (pictured from left to right):

  • Station Inspector (SI) and GRF officer Watson Tan Chiew Sheng, age 44

  • Corporal Yang Kai Siang, a GRF officer and national serviceman (NSF) who was off-duty at the time of the incident, age 19

  • Sergeant and ERT officer Muhd Syarhan Bin Zaharin, age 33

  • Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) and ERT officer Paul Chew Qi Yang, age 31

As one of the first responders at the scene and while waiting for the ERT's arrival, SI Watson stepped up to isolate and contain the incident.

He recounted: "As I continued to engage the man, my team continued to feed vital information to our ERT officers to assist their operational planning on the mission.

SI Watson noted that this close coordination played a critical part in the arrest of the man.

Sergeant Syarhan also played a key role by observing the assailant from behind and looking out for a window of opportunity to execute a takedown.

He shared: "While my team members were engaged with the assailant, I had to move myself into his blind spot without him noticing. Once I was in position, I waited for the signal before taking the man down by surprise.

"When I grabbed the man, the lady collapsed."

It was at this exact same moment that ASP Paul moved in to disarm the perpetrator while another officer extricated the victim and pulled her to safety.

The woman suffered an abrasion on her right chin but refused conveyance to hospital.

ASP Paul said: "I could tell that the victim was petrified to a point of being barely able to move. The look of concern on her face made me realise that this was a life-and-death situation.

"I could not afford to make one wrong move, or select the wrong choice of words, as this could possibly change the whole situation."

ASP Paul also revealed that identifying the right window of opportunity was the biggest challenge.

Teamwork further came into play when effecting the man's arrest.

Off-duty Corporal Kai Siang was on his way to report for work when he saw officers engaging with the armed man, whom he noted was "hostile and uncooperative".

During the takedown, he wasted no time in helping the other officers restrain the man.

"It was not easy as he was struggling and uncooperative," said Corporal Kai Siang. "Thinking back, everything happened so quickly and I'm glad that we managed to arrest him."

Corporal Kai Siang was one of two bystanders who had jumped in to help pin down the man.

A civilian dressed in a black shirt and white pants can also be seen in action. However, Stomp understands that the police have not been able to reach out to him.

Circulated videos also show police trying to disperse a crowd (most of whom were coffee shop patrons) that had gathered at the scene and telling them to "stop filming".

In response to questions from the media about whether being on video affected how the police carried out their duties, SI Watson said his priority was the safety of both the victim and members of the public.

Having been with SPF for 22 years, he acknowledged that people taking photos and videos "is the norm" and therefore does not affect him.

ASP Paul said "it is undeniable" that we live in the era of smartphones, but added: "I do believe in the marketplace concept of truth. As long as we do the right things, as long as we do the good things, we never ever have to worry.

"At the end of the day, if we know why we did what we did, and our conscience is clear, then we really have nothing to worry about."

And indeed it is public safety that is always on the forefront of all four officers' minds.

ASP Paul said: "Regardless of whether it's myself, my team or any of my colleagues that attend (to the scene), our objective is always the same: To ensure the victim is safe. To ensure the victim goes home safely.

"I hope that this is assurance that no matter what the situation, the victim's safety is always our main objective."

View more photos in the gallery.