Policemen were on Wednesday caught on camera executing three men in cold blood on a busy Nairobi street.
A motorist who happened upon the confrontation between plainclothes policemen and alleged criminals in the morning traffic pulled out his camera and took photographs.
All the three men had already surrendered and were lying on the tarmac on Langata Road near Wilson Airport.
As they lay on the tarmac, a policeman in plain clothes was pointing a gun to their heads.
A witness heard one of the officers shouting, “Laleni vizuri tuwamalize (lie down so we can finish you).”
The other officers then opened fire at the men at point-blank range. The witness lost count of the shots fired but said “they were sustained”.
Nation reporters arrived about 30 minutes after the 9am shooting and found uniformed police officers, at the bloody scene.
The bodies of the three men, their clothes soaked in blood, were sprawled on the tarmac supine. They lay about three metres apart, with thick blood marks indicating they had been dragged on the tarmac.
The skull of one of them had been split open, apparently by the impact of gunshots.
The plainclothes officers, who shot the men, had sped off after briefing the Lang’ata police commander Augustine Kimantiri, who was at the head of the uniformed officers that arrived shortly after the execution.
Mr Kimantiri told journalists at the scene: “CID officers had challenged a gang of six suspicious men to stop, but instead they drew arms and fired at the officers, and a shootout ensued.”
He added that the three were gunned down as they ran away while their accomplices escaped. “Our officers are looking for them in the Kibera slums. We recovered an American pistol and two rounds (bullets),” Mr Kimantiri added.
The officers who confronted the suspects were responding to a “tip off,” he explained. His explanation contradicted the version of the motorist who took the photographs and that of numerous other witnesses.
“I was driving to town and there were three vehicles ahead of me. Three men (police officers) jumped out of a four-wheel drive vehicle and aimed their guns at a station wagon in front of them,” said the man, whose name we have withheld for his own safety.
But he had the presence of mind to pull out his camera and take four pictures. “The three men came out of the vehicle with their hands raised above their heads in surrender. They lay on the road as ordered by the police,” he said.
One of the officers frisked them and recovered a pistol tucked into the waist band. During the incident, traffic slowed down at the scene and officers who shot the men were signalling motorists to drive on and shooing away pedestrians.
However, Mr Kimantiri told journalists that the suspects were not in a vehicle. The vehicle referred to by the witness was not at the scene.
Before Mr Kimantiri talked to the journalists, his CID counterpart had aggressively tried to stop them approaching the scene even as a crowd milled around the bodies still lying on the tarmac.
He pushed a journalist while another officer in plain clothes drew his gun and pointed it at the journalist, threatening to shoot.
A woman officer, in uniform, barked at a journalist: “Kwani wewe ni mmoja wao? Pia wewe tutakuweka hapo (Are you one of them? We shall put you there too)”.
Matter being probed
Contacted by the Nation, Police Spokesman Eric Kiraithe said: “We’ve received a report at the headquarters involving police officers and suspected criminals.
“As usual every incident of shooting is subject to an investigation according to Force Standing Orders and the Criminal Procedure Code. Therefore the matter is being investigated by the Nairobi Area command and an inquest file has been opened.”
The Kenya police has in the past been accused of illegal killings, prompting a 2009 investigation by United Nation’s special rapporteur Philip Alston.
His report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland condemned the police for widespread extra-judicial executions.