Legal Assistance Centre-Namibia
home
Legal Assistance Centre
In the News
Archive 2007


Home > News > In the News > Shoot to Kill - City Police accused of reckless gun use

Shoot to Kill
City Police accused of reckless gun use

August 2008
Tangeni Mongudhi
Insight Magazine

It was around 17h00 on June 4 in Heyns Street, Pioneers Park extension one.

The Windhoek City Police had laid an ambush for two suspected burglars returning for goods stolen earlier in the day. Amos Benjamin (24) and Shimanda Tobias (19) were trying to gain entry to an empty property where the goods were stashed through a hole in a precast wall. When the two caught sight of the police they started to flee. The police ordered them to stop and fired warning shots.

in the chest and twice in the face. The bullets tore into his face, ripping through his left cheek. Tobias was shot twice in the chest.

The police opened a case of housebreaking and theft, while the Police Complaints and Discipline Division opened a case of murder. Media reports at the time stated that police had shot and killed two thieves, who were caught housebreaking.

It was treated as a routine crime report. Few questions were asked.

Since then the Legal Assistance Centre (LAC) has started to raise questions about the incident.

  • Why did the police kill the suspects in a manner that suggests they were executed while they posed no direct threat to the officers at the scene?
  • Why was Benjamin shot a total of 11 times?
  • Why were both suspects shot in the upper body and not the lower body as might be expected if the shots were intended to wound rather than kill?
  • And why were they shot from the front if they were supposed to be running away?

The family was not officially informed about the circumstances of Benjamin’s death nor why he was shot so many times. Shikongo Amashili, Benjamin’s cousin, told insight, that he had seen the autopsy report which indicated the number and location of gunshot wounds on Benjamin’s body.

The morticians had tried to sew Benjamin’s face back together to make him more recognizable after two bullets ripped through his left cheek.

Trigger happy?
The four City Police officers who were involved in the shooting are still on duty, business as usual.

The head of the City Police, Abraham Kanime, told insight that Namibian Police’s Complaints and Discipline Division has the mandate to investigate and charge any of his officers if they contravene the law.

“The City Police is not trigger happy,” said Kanime, adding that his force was mandated to protect the people of Windhoek and their property by keeping within the guidelines of the Criminal

Procedure Act.
LAC Director Norman Tjombe told insight that the fatal shootings of crime suspects are a serious concern for his organisation.

“We do not have the death penalty in Namibia, and for the police to shoot at a fleeing suspect, is to say that the police can arbitrarily impose the death penalty. They became the judge, jury and executioner – all in one.”

The LAC believes the current Criminal Procedure Act is in conflict with the Constitution.

“In light of our new constitutional dispensation which values the right to life very highly, I believe that section 49 of the Criminal Procedure Act, which authorises the killing of someone who is resisting an arrest, is unconstitutional.

“The police can only shoot someone if that person poses an imminent danger to the police officer or someone else in which case that will be in defence of life. The random and senseless shootings of fleeing suspects by the law enforcement agencies also creates a culture of impunity and breeds even more violence,” said Tjombe.

This is not the first time the LAC has clashed with the City Police over its readiness to shoot at suspects.

The organisation is representing Hofeni Shooya, who is suing the City of Windhoek for N$1 million, after the City Police shot him in March 2006. As a result of the shooting, Shooya’s leg was amputated. The incident occurred when Shooya was job seeking in Pioneers Park and was caught in the crossfire when the City Police were chasing a suspect.

The latest victim of apparent irresponsible handling of firearms by members of the City Police is Fillemon Henguva.

Lying on his hospital bed in the Katutura State Hospital, Henguva tells of how he was part of a crowd that gathered as the police sought to arrest his brother in Okuryangava on July 2.

“As the crowd came nearer to the confrontation and asking what is going on, one the officers pulled out his gun and shot me.”

The bullet went through his mouth, damaged his jaw and is now stuck somewhere in his neck. Henguva cannot breathe on his own. He is constantly in pain and cannot speak properly. Doctors are expected to operate to remove the bullet once he has regained his strength. Sources within the City Police say the officer in question was trying to fire a warning shot in the air when he accidentally shot Henguva.

The LAC is also representing Henguva in his civil case against the police.

The three incidents suggest a pattern involving negligent and irresponsible use of guns. A source within Nampol said the City Police needed more training in the handling of firearms. Despite Kanime maintaining that the City Police are not “trigger happy”, recent events suggest otherwise.

Read other articles