A police officer in Nairobi brutally murdered a 17-year-old boy even though had not resisted arrest and was unarmed, his mother says.
Lilian Achieng Odongo says that on July 12, 2016, an officer based at the Shauri Moyo Police Station shot her son, Vitalis Odhiambo Odongo nine times.
Mr Odongo, 17, who had been watching football at the Kamukunji grounds panicked and ran away when the officers confronted him. One officer shot him on the leg and arm as he was running away, unarmed, and then followed him to his sister’s house, about 300 metres from the scene.
The officer pulled Vitalis out of the house and forced him to lie down at the entrance before shooting him seven more times.
One of the residents who witnessed the shooting said that the deceased raised his hands while crying and pleaded with the officer only known as Benteke “Ofisi tafadhali usiniue. Jameni muniitie mama yangu (Officer, please don’t kill me. You people, go and call my mother)”
His bereaved mother has urged the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) to investigate the shooting to establish whether force used was necessary and proportional to the gravity of the alleged offence.
“I had just come from Gikomba when I heard two gunshots not very far away from my house. After a few minutes I heard other gunshots, but little did I know that it was my son who was being shot,” said Ms Odongo
She went to her stall, about 10 metres from her tin-walled house and started selling vegetables. “About 10 minutes later, some of my neighbours came to my stall and informed me of what had happened,” she said.
She went to the scene and found her son, who had been shot several times, lying about five metres from her elder sister’s house.
Police reports seen by Newsplex indicate that the officers recovered a homemade pistol capable of firing, with two rounds of 9mm ammunition. Eyewitnesses, however, said there was no firearm.
STOLEN MOBILE PHONE
Firearms, according to police regulations, may only be used when less extreme means prove inadequate to protect or save the life of a police officer or other person. “The deceased was running away as he was crying and pleading with the officer not to kill him. He was not carrying anything,” said a resident of Shauri Moyo.
Vitalis’s mother said that her son was running away and there was no evidence to show that the officer was acting in self-defence or in defense of other person against an imminent threat to life or of serious injury.
A month before the shooting, Vitalis had been arrested after being found with a stolen mobile phone and detained at Shauri Moyo police station. He was never taken to court, but the phone was handed back to its owner, his mother says.
“The officers had told me to give them Sh20,000 for them to release my son but since I did not have it, I told them to take him to court if they had strong evidence against him,” she said. Mr Odongo was released and started working, clearing the drainage within the slum, unaware that he was a marked man.
“The officer, who was well known to me, told our local chief that he would kill my son since he was suspected to be involved in criminal activities. I do not understand why he did not arrest him,” said Mr Odongo's mother.
Preliminary investigations show that even after he was overwhelmed, the officer continued shooting him. “I still do not understand why he could not arrest him, even after he had shot him both on the hand and leg. My son ran up to her sister’s house and he followed him there,” she said.
Interestingly, the police report also did not indicate the number of rounds that were fired by the officer. “The matter is under investigations. The law is very clear that justified force must stop once the threat ends,” said a senior officer who sought anonymity.
The National Police Service spokesman George Kinoti said that officers could use lethal force while apprehending a suspect or trying to prevent a crime, depending on the circumstance.
For force to be considered justifiable, the threat itself must be unavoidable and immediate, and the amount of force used must be at an appropriate level under the circumstance.
“Every shooting should raise the question whether the officers needed to shoot,” the Police spokesman said.