Acting on a tip-off from a person, who had seen the CCTV camera grab of one of the suspects that was released on Wednesday, the police raided a Housing Board colony on Rajaji Street in Velachery around 1 a.m. on Thursday.
Joint Commissioner of Police (South) Shanmugarajeshwaran said that there was a brief exchange of fire. A 14-member police team spilt into two groups and fired through the windows of the one-bedroom apartment, he said.
The police eventually managed to break-in through the main door. Two policemen, Ravi and Christian Jayasil, were injured in the crossfire.
All the five suspects, estimated to be around 30-35 years old, were killed. They are all believed to be from Bihar. A West Bengal driving licence was recovered. The victims have been identified as Vinod Kumar, Chandri Khare, Vinay Prasad, Abhay Kumar, and Harish Kumar.
Inside their room, two bags containing wads of cash were found. The bags also contained five pistols and two revolvers, police said.
Though the men had been living in the colony for at least the last three months, neighbours said that they never noticed anything unusual. None of them were also aware of the gunfight. They all slept peacefully and woke up on Thursday morning to find their neighbourhood teeming with police personnel.
The injured police inspectors were admitted to the Royapettah Government Hospital. The victims were taken to the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital for post-mortem.
Residents of Tamil Nadu Housing Board colony in Velachery woke up to a shock on Thursday morning. The encounter took place in the TNHB colony, formed 25 years ago, where there are several thousand houses, with at least 50 tenements. Most residents were unaware of the encounter until large number of policemen and media persons started to arrive on the spot from 2 am. onwards on Thursday.
L. Mahesh, working in a real estate firm, who had moved into the housing board flat only 4 months ago, said that he was woken up by loud noises around midnight that lasted for about an hour.
M. Gnanamurthy, a 55-year-old electrician living on A.L Muthali 2nd street, said that he entered the locality around 11.30 pm. But as the area was cordoned off by the police, he had to take another route to reach his home. He had barely gone to bed when he was woken by a series of loud noises. “It was not until early this morning that I realised such a major incident has taken place so close to my house.”
Yashoda Nagappan, living in the flat opposite to where the encounter took place, said a big team of policemen arrived around 10 pm on Wednesday. The suspects had, immediately, closed the windows and switched the lights off. Reportedly, the police team and the five suspects had verbal exchanges for more than an hour.
Yasoda, a mother of two daughters, said there was an exchange of fire between midnight and 1 a.m. Police had instructed Yasoda and the other families to not open the doors. Yasoda added that when the bodies were taken away, she gave towels, shawls and other clothing to the policemen to cover the suspects.