Hero or villain? Pangani’s most-feared crime buster
Sergeant Rashid Ahmed, a police officer whose name sends shivers down the spine of many families, and arguably the most feared in Nairobi’s sprawling Eastleigh and Mathare neighbourhoods, has finally been transferred from Pangani Police Station.
Human rights organisations and members of the public have levelled serious allegations, mostly extrajudicial killings, against the Pangani-based officer.
On Tuesday last week, just after he was transferred, the officer visited a human rights organisation claiming he wanted to defend himself against numerous allegations against him.
Rashid has previously dismissed claims against him, insisting he has always operated within the legal parameters while executing his duties.
“All the stories you hear being peddled about me are pure rumours being passed around by some of my colleagues envious of my effectiveness in executing my duties.
If I have done any wrong, why have I not been arrested and charged in a court of law as required?” Rashid asked People Daily.
But Rashid’s colleagues describe him as a ruthless officer, who operates above the law unlike the rest of them.
“He seems to have a very powerful person who protects him. During his stay at Pangani, he could only be questioned by the OCPD despite holding a junior rank of a sergeant.
Not even the inspectors and chief inspectors who were his bosses could dare touch him,” said an officer who declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue.
In 2017, Rashid was caught on camera shooting at two unarmed men in Eastleigh. The video that went viral on social media showed a plainclothes police officer shooting at the two as a shocked crowd watched on.
The officer pumped bullets into one of his victims, a young boy, then got another gun from his colleague and sprayed an additional four bullets on the helpless man who was already on the ground.
A witness recounted how Rashid arrested Gitau frog marched him all the way to the petrol station at around 9pm and made him kneel down before pumping several bullets into his head and chest, killing him on the spot.
The post-mortem witnessed by the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (Ipoa) showed six bullets were used to kill Gitau.
“In less than two minutes, his life was cut short in such a cruel manner,” the witness said of the April 15 incident that has renewed fear in the ghetto.
Kevin Gitau, who operated a fruit business within the neighbourhood, lived his last days a worried man.
The family said Rashid had warned Gitau in February that he would be killed if he did not pay Sh100,000 to a lady he was accused of stealing an iPhone from.
Rashid was also linked to the death of Ben Kanindo, a 15-year-old boiled eggs vendor and the killing of five youths at Mlango Kubwa in January 2019.
“Rashid was a hardworking officer who was determined to wipe out criminals from Pangani jurisdiction.
He did not just shoot for the sake of it, but after carrying out thorough investigations on the individuals’ backgrounds,” Starehe sub-county police commander Alice Kimeli said.
Ipoa has complained that it is experiencing challenges in investigating some cases due to witness intimidation.
According to the oversight body, they had received numerous cases against Sergeant Rashid but the cases had not been concluded, as the key witnesses were reluctant to record their statements with the detectives.
“Ipoa has noted with a lot of concern that the misuse of firearms and use of excessive force continue to be the biggest challenge facing the National Police Service,” Ipoa chairperson Ann Makori said.
According to the police oversight body, the unjustified use of deadly force by the officers is however a tip of the iceberg as most investigations into cases of extrajudicial killings had stalled due to witness threats and intimidation.
Though allegations had earlier been levelled against him, he would later be known for the 2017 shooting of two unarmed men in Eastleigh.
The Mathare Social Justice Centre (MSJC) referred to him as the known killer policeman from Pangani. On Tuesday last week, the MSJC said Rashid visited the centre to lodge a complaint against one of them who he accused of “discrediting him on social media” but the centre interpreted the visit as a threat meant to intimidate them.
“We demand that the National Police Service and Ipoa take this threat on MSJC seriously. We also urge other relevant grassroots and civil society actors to stand in solidarity with MSJC at this time,” the centre said.
According to the organisation, Rashid went there at around 11am with two of his colleagues and demanded to see the centre’s leaders, among them Lucy Wambui, the centre’s administrative officer.
Ms Wambui, according to MSJC, is the wife of the late Christopher “Maich” Maina, who was killed by Rashid in 2017.
“A witness to Maich’s killing was also killed by Rashid in 2018,” the Centre said in a letter addressed to police headquarters.
Rashid said that he knew many people had lodged complaints against him and he wanted to share his side of the story with the MSJC leadership. As a sign of peace, he insisted that Wambui serves him tea.
“As a police officer, Rashid is certainly aware of the legal avenues to lodge a complaint, therefore we consider his request an excuse to enter our space and intimidate us,” they said.
“MSJC has been documenting the killings of youth by the police in Mathare since 2015, a large number of these killings which have been done by Rashid himself,” they added.
Ipoa has also warned that there is an increase in the use of excessive force resulting to loss of lives and grievous bodily harm by police officers.
Officers are only allowed to use firearms when less extreme measures are inadequate to save or protect the life of the officer or another person; and to defend themselves or another person against an impending threat of life or serious injury.