Riots as police officer shoots six dead in city

Wednesday, December 8th, 2021 06:24 |
Police containing residents around Mountain View Mall. PHOTO/ANTYNET FORD.

A delay in investigating a case where a policeman shot dead a man in April returned to haunt the Force when the same officer killed six people before turning the gun on himself yesterday.

Constable Benson Imbatu, based at Kabete police station, Nairobi, shot dead his lover and five boda boda riders before blowing off his head using an AK47 rifle he had been allocated for official duties.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i said preliminary investigations suggested the tragedy may have been triggered by a love triangle.

“The government is saddened by the Kabete incident involving a police officer. The DCI and the Internal Affairs Unit of the National Police Service are currently undertaking an active investigation on the matter and will keep the public fully updated,” Matiang’i said.

On April 16 this year, the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) launched investigations into the fatal shooting of Nicholas Lifede at Mountain View estate in Kabete.

Lifede had on April 8 been shot dead by an officer based at Kabete police station. That officer turned out to be Imbatu, whose case was still pending at IPOA offices.

Yesterday, investigations revealed the officer had excused himself from night duty and driven to his house, about two kilometres away, where he shot dead his lover, identified as Caroline Asava, on the neck at their house located at the ‘N’ market area.

He then proceeded to a bus stage near Mountain Mall where he shot and killed the five boda boda riders.

“He appeared disturbed and eye witnesses said he was shooting anyone on sight. The first few people escaped unhurt,” Dagoretti police boss Francis Wahome said.

Wahome said they got information and officers rushed to the scene but it was too late.

“When he saw he had been cornered by his colleagues, he shot himself dead inside his car,” the police commander said.

The killings sparked riots in the area with outraged youth engaging police in running battles. Traffic was disrupted as rioting mobs barricaded the main road and burnt tyres.

The agitated residents made several attempts to raid the station in vain forcing the law enforcers to call for reinforcement from other formations.

Residents demanded the removal of the Officer Commanding Station (OCS) claiming he had overstayed at the station.

“The Inspector General of Police Hillary Mutyambai should step in and act on the case where a file from IPOA can be kept in office without any action.

On many occasions, there are cases of indiscipline within the area. We have issues with policemen and women from the station who on various occasions display poor relationship within the community,” said Margaret Akumu, resident who lives in neighbouring Mountainview Estate.

A policeman at the station who spoke to People Daily on condition of anonymity, said there were issues affecting their colleague for several months, but the station leadership should have detected and acted after the IPOA report.

It was not clear whether the officer was acting in response to a provocation or whether the attack had been premeditated.

“It was not clear if it was a crime of passion or what provocation he succumbed to. He was usually a quiet man,” one of his colleagues said.

A neighbour, Purity Cheruiyot, told police that she heard a loud bang from the officer’s house before it caught fire.

According to police, Asava, the officer’s companion, used to work at a local bar and the two started a relationship about three months ago.

The officer then opened a club for the woman within the same area and about a month ago, they moved to stay together.

“We have launched investigations to establish the motive of the shooting. Two other people are undergoing treatment at the Kenyatta National Hospital,” Wahome told People Daily.

Sole breadwinner

The firearm, an AK47 rifle serial number 4915724, was recovered with only four rounds of ammunition, implying he had fired 26 rounds.

“Officers are allowed to use firearms, even lethal force, but in this case it was not justified. The officer fired a total of 26 rounds from his rifle. The process of identifying the victims began immediately and all of them have been positively identified,” the commander said.

One of the victims has been identified as Amos Njoroge, 37. His wife, Winfred Nyambura, told the press that she last spoke with her husband on Monday at around 11pm.

They did not communicate again but at daybreak, the couple’s two year-old woke up and asked where the father was. The mother of three children aged eight, five and two, said she called the husband at around 6am but his phone went unanswered.

“He usually works at night if he does not make enough money during the day. However, he is usually home by 6am. He was the sole breadwinner and I am totally devastated,” Nyambura said.

“At around 7.30am I got information that some people had been shot dead and the bodies had been removed. We proceeded to Kabete police station where we found his motorcycle parked. I knew he was dead,” said the sobbing widow.

Another victim of the fatal shooting was identified as Kevin Ayieko, a disc jockey, aged 26. Ayieko’s sister told People Daily that her brother doubled as a boda boda rider during the day. He was not married.

On Monday, Kevin had organised a fundraising effort for a neighbour who had died.

Judy Njambi, a sister of another slain rider, expressed shock at news that her brother, 26-year-old Joseph, had been killed.

“My aunt called and informed me that he was among those killed by a police officer. I was shocked since my brother was not a thief, he was a hardworking man who also doubled up as a DJ, working in various events,” said a teary Njambi.

Others who were shot dead are Paul Githinji and Gabriel Mutua. Mutua was a pillion passenger who, together with his colleagues, had left a funeral meeting within the estate.

Intimate partners

Several studies have linked such killings to a number of factors including continuous work without a break, exposure to death and injury, regular availability of firearms, alcoholism, physical illness, stress, and social strain resulting from work, among others.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) lists schizophrenia, depression and defects due to drug abuse, as some of the existing mental disorders, adding that most of them are treatable.

“Most law enforcement officers are at heightened risk for taking their own lives and even killing since they carry or have access to firearms. Most of these firearms include officers’ service weapons,” a senior government official said.

Police records have also indicated that there has been an increase in intimate partner killings. Most of these killings and violence are perpetrated by men who are in family or intimate partner relationships.

Majority of those killed by their intimate partners were married and living together with the person who attacked them. Stabbing was the most common mode of killing.

In July this year, one of Matiang’i’s body guards, Constable Hudson Wakise, shot dead his wife, Constable Pauline Wakasa of Kilimani police station, before turning the gun on himself.

Close relatives said there were accusations of infidelity from both sides.
Before he pulled the trigger, the officer is said to have asked the wife whether she was leaving him because “she had found another man”.

Due to the disagreement, the wife had shifted to a new house, leaving the husband at the GSU staff quarters, four days before the killing.

Grave issue

Reacting to the killings then, Matiangi said he was “deeply pained by the tragic incident”, adding that it was a rude awakening to psychosocial challenges among young officers, adding that the government had no choice but to pay greater attention to the challenge.

Speaking at Administration Police Training College, Embakasi, yesterday during a commemoration service for police and prisons officers who have fallen in the line of duty, Matiang’i urged Kenyans to refrain from insensitive comments trivialising the grave issue.

“The public is urged to refrain from insensitively trivialising and politicising the matter, especially on social media. Like any other members of society, police and prisons officers are susceptible to mental health challenges and other pressures including drugs and substance abuse,” Matiangi said.

The CS added the government in collaboration with the NPS and Prison Service had enhanced counseling and medical help for affected officers.
“There is a deliberate drive to destigmatise mental health and stress and to actively reach out to potential cases including the Nyumba Kumi initiative,” he said.

Regarding the fallen officers, Matiang’i said the NPS and Prison Services will digitise officers’ records to ensure accurate data to help with payment of relevant dues.

“Payment of gratuity and other benefits for fallen officers will be expedited. Officers are encouraged to formalise their unions and to make information on the same officially available to human resources people. The clergy will be roped in to encourage as many officers as possible to conduct formal weddings,” Matiang’i added.

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