New Delhi: Stunt biking by around 100 young men led to a tragedy in the heart of Delhi early Sunday when police opened fire killing a teenager riding pillion, police said.
Inspector Rajneesh Parmar of the Police Control Room fired from his revolver in a bid to puncture a motorcycle's rear tyre but it instead hit the victim, Karan Pandey, on his back, police said.
The bike rider, Puneet Sharma, also fell off the bike and suffered bruises. Both Sharma and Pandey were taken to a hospital. The other bikers sped away.
The drama began just after midnight Saturday when police were told that some 100 young men riding 35 to 40 motorcycles were performing stunts near the Gol Dak Khana in central Delhi.
When two police control room vans rushed to the site, the bikers sped towards the city centre.
Near the Le Meridien Hotel in the heart of Delhi, the bikers -- according to police -- got off their bikes and pelted stones and other missiles on the police personnel.
Outnumbered, the inspector fired, killing Pandey, who was said to be 18 or 19 years old.
A medical examination revealed that biker Sharma was under the influence of alcohol, police spokesman Rajan Bhagat told IANS.
Police justified the shooting but insisted the intention was not to kill anyone.
"There are times when we are forced to fire," Deputy Commissioner of Police S.B.S. Tyagi told IANS. "The inspector was aiming at the rear tyre. But the rider did a stunt just then, and the bullet hit Pandey."
By the time police took both to hospital, Pandey died.
The Sunday killing took place amid an ongoing police crackdown on stunt biking at night when young men zoom down wide roads at great speed, putting lives of pedestrians and other motorists at risk.
Stunt biking was earlier reported from Sarai Kale Khan in south Delhi and the nearby DND Flyway that links the capital with Noida in Uttar Pradesh.
But in recent times the bikers have concentrated in the city's very heart including Connaught Place and India Gate and nearby tree-lined roads.
Pandey's distraught family in Malviya Nagar in south Delhi demanded life imprisonment to the police officer who shot him.
"I don't know when my son left home," said Manju Pandey, the dead man's mother.
"Police told us at 6.30 in the morning that our son had been injured and was in hospital. When we reached the hospital, we realised that he was no more."
Sharma's family said he left home Saturday night saying he would return the next morning.
"He told us he was going to be with his friends," said his mother, Kusum Lata. "We don't know where he went.
"Even if our children were guilty, they should have been arrested. But why did the police open fire?" she asked.
According to police, most stunt motorcyclists in Delhi are aged up to 25 years. After having "fun" on the roads at night, they return home. Some of them have been accused of assaulting policemen or harassing women.
Twelve people have been arrested and seven cases registered in the crackdown on stunt biking in central Delhi launched in June, police said.
Image: A picture of the bike of the rider who was shot dead by the police.