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16 years later, ex-officer found guilty of killing three people

Saturday July 20 2019

Harrison Kipng’etich Lang’at

Former police constable Harrison Kipng’etich Lang’at at the High Court in Mombasa on Thursday, July 18, 2019. PHOTO | BRIAN OCHARO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

BRIAN OCHARO
By BRIAN OCHARO
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On March 16, 2003, at around 9.30pm, police constable Harrison Kipng’etich Lang’at, armed with a G3 rifle, went to the report office and mercilessly shot two civilians and his colleague, killing them instantly.

WENT BERSERK

The reason for the murder of constable Jacob Nderi, Ms Doreen Wawira and Ms Alice Katonye is a closely guarded secret, but has been linked to a deal gone sour.

The heinous act started with a drinking spree that lasted the entire day, with the suspect moving from one entertainment spot to another in readiness for the “evening job”.

The drinking spree started at noon at Burn Off bar, and proceeded to Palm bar before Lang’at and Mr Nderi went back to Mtwapa Patrol Base (now Mtwapa Police Station) in Mombasa at 7pm in preparation for the night duty.

At about 9.30pm, Mr Nderi went to the report office to wait for deployment. Lang’at went to his house and armed himself before proceeding to the report office where he found five members of the public who had come to make their crime reports.

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Lang’at, who appeared very drunk, went berserk, opened fire and shot Mr Nderi and the five civilians, killing two and injuring the rest.

Those who were shot included Ms Wawira, Mr David Kyalo, Mr Jonathan Kigame, Ms Katonye and Mr Anwar Nassir.

According to witness statements and police records, after the shooting, Mr Lang’at went to his colleague’s house, where he was disarmed, before fleeing.

The injured police officer and the other injured people were taken to Coast General Hospital where Mr Nderi, Ms Katonye and Ms Wawira were pronounced dead. The rest were treated and discharged.

At the scene of crime, eight spent cartridges were recovered. The items, including the gun and 12 bullets, were then forwarded to ballistic experts for examination. The spent cartridges were found to have been fired from Mr Lang’at’s rifle.

He was later arrested and charged with three counts of murder.

When Chief Magistrate Julius Nangea picked up the case along the way, Lang’at, who was out on bond, failed to show up because he had not been notified the case was restarting.

CRIME SCENE

Mr Nangea issued a warrant of arrest for the accused.

Lang’at was finally arrested in 2015 and the case heard before Senior Principal Magistrate Diana Mochache. Then Mombasa Senior Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions Alexander Muteti asked the court to enhance the charge of manslaughter to that of murder, which was done.

The case was placed before High Court Judge Dorah Chepkwony, where the suspect took plea and the trial began.

On Thursday, the court found Lang’at guilty of murder.

In her ruling, Justice Chepkwony, said all the evidence placed Lang’at at the crime scene. “All the evidence, when taken as a whole, points to the guilt of the accused. It leaves the court with no doubt that, indeed, he was at the crime scene and that he was the one who committed the heinous act,” she said.

The judge further noted that witness accounts were not disputed by the suspect and that the court found no evidence that he had returned the rifle at the time the shooting occurred.

“The evidence available suggests that the accused mercilessly opened fire and shot the three people who later succumbed to the gun wounds,” the judge said.

The judge also noted that Lang’at’s defence that he was drunk on the material day cannot stand since as a result of his careless actions, three lives were lost. The suspect had said he could not remember what happened on the day of the shooting.

INNOCENT PEOPLE

“When I got out of the patrol base, I had people shouting that I should be stopped and locked up in cell,” he said.

Following his conviction, the DPP, through lawyer Erick Masila, asked the judge to pass a death sentence against Langa't to deter shootings and killings by police officers.

The prosecutor asked the court to consider the facts that three families lost their breadwinners in the hands of an officer.

“The accused person was a police officer and he used his weapon, which was meant to guard innocent people, to mercilessly shoot and kill those he was supposed to protect without a valid reason. The court ought to take judicial notice of what is happening in the country where police use their guns to end lives of innocent Kenyans,” he said.

Mr Masila urged the court to take this opportunity to discourage the police against harming innocent people.

The prosecutor also sought to have the families of the three victims who lost their lives compensated for loss of dependency.

Lang’at will be sentenced later this month.