Liberia: Police ‘Kills’ Two Commuters, One ‘Zogoe’ in Duala Raid

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MONROVIA – At least three persons have been killed when officers of the Police Support Unit (PSU) of the Liberia National Police and the Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency (LDEA) fired live bullets during a crackdown on suspected armed robbers and drug dealers in the commercial area of Duala on the Bushrod Island, outside Monrovia.

Duala is located in electoral district # 16, Montserrado County.

The unidentified victims believed to be in their early 30s were all males.

Two of those who were shot dead were believed to be commuters, while the other was considered as a “zogo”.

Disadvantaged youths are normally referred to as “zogos” in Liberia.

They are most often engaged into unwholesome practices including armed robbery, the snatching away of valuable items from peaceful Liberian citizens and others, the salvaging of dump sites for fairly used materials to sell, the loading of commercial vehicles with passengers, among others. They normally sell stolen items far below the original prices to satisfy their bad habit of taking in narcotics and other dangerous substances.

The shooting incident occurred during the late morning hours of Tuesday, November 23, when the joint security officers attempted to arrest and raid a major ghetto in Kuwait, one of the commercial areas in Duala.

The raid was triggered following an armed robbery incident which reportedly occurred on Monday, November 22 in the Gbalaswa Community in Duala.

The LDEA and LNP officers moved in the area to arrest and demolish major ghettoes which served as hideouts to suspected armed robbers and notorious criminals.

Eyewitnesses claimed that the incident exacerbated when scores of disadvantaged youths in Liberia stormed the area from nearby ghettoes to prevent the arrest of some of their colleagues, including their ring bearer.

Several rounds were reportedly fired in the air by unidentified LNP and LDEA officers to disperse the growing number of less fortunate youths that trooped into the area.

The disadvantaged youths or “zogos” allegedly engaged into throwing stones and other harmful weapons at the officers, something which prompted the random shooting.

“There was a suspected armed robbery last night and those that were suspected of carrying on the act came to Kuwait and the police received a tipoff that those that they were having arms. The firing was done by the police; nobody was firing back at the police”, Ambrose Wisseh, a local businessman who witnessed the incident, stated.

He continued: “They (police) were firing to disperse the crowd. After the shooting incident, more men came to beef up the strength of the police. The zogos were throwing stones and other objects at the police. People goods were looted; even my best friend lost his phones”.

“As soon I put my market down this morning, I saw plenty police and DEA people here. They said they were looking for armed robbers and they came to destroy the ghettoes here. It didn’t stay too long, we heard firing sound; all of us got scare”, Catherine Manneh, a lady trading dry goods stated.

She added: “They were firing the live bullets straight; and the other man fell down right in front there. They shot him from the back”.

The shooting incident in Duala led to the disruption of normal commercial, working, academic, and banking activities on the Bushrod Island for several hours.

Parents and guardians were seen in rush trekking long distances to pick up their children attending nearby schools in the area, while owners of various stores, shops and businesses shutdown as a result of the incident.

Few other businesses were reported to have been looted by unknown persons.

Though no LNP officer was seen with a wound, it remains unclear why live bullets where used to disband the growing number of less fortunate youths who went on the scene to prevent the arrest of some of their colleagues by PSU and LDEA officers.

“Why the police did not fire tear gas to make sure that the crowd was dispersed but they had to use live bullets? They came to kill people and they killed people”, a commuter stated.

 “They fired the other man on his side and the other guy on his back”, Isaac Brown, a commercial motorcyclist stated.

“Somebody smoking drugs or carrying on armed robbery does not give the police or anybody the right to fire and kill that person. The blood of these innocent people that are lying here today is on the hands of the killers. We do not know them; but God knows them”, one Isaac Manneh stated.

Plea for probe

For his part, former Montserrado County district # 16 Representative candidate, Robert Teah, called on the Ministry of Justice to launch an investigation into the matter.

Mr. TEah is a stalwart of the former ruling Unity Party (UP), one of the political parties that make up the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP).

He noted that it is quite unfortunate for Liberians to be gunned down in a manner and form that cannot be justified.

Country not safe

He said the latest incident shows that Liberia is not secure for foreign investors and others to come into the country to do businesses.

Mr. Teah emphasized that though there is no war fighting in Liberia, incidents which have the propensity to make citizens and others to run hectic skeptic are unfortunate and uncalled for.

“Liberia is not safe eventhough we are not fighting war; there were fears all around today because people were running here and there; some students lost and we say no to this. We call on the government through the Ministry of Justice to launch an investigation into the deaths of our citizens”.

Blame

Mr. Teah said government should take full responsibility of the influx of less fortunate Liberian youths and the proliferation of illegal drugs in the country, instead of going after abusers and traders of these substances.

He maintained that most of the illegal drug or substances come into Liberia through the border points.

He wondered why these dangerous substances continue to enter the country when LDEA and other officers of the National Joint Security Task Force remain assigned and stationed at various border points.

“The drugs that are coming to this country-where are they passing? They are passing to the borders or airports. Who are in charge? It is the government”.

Deputy Police Commissioner Prince David refused to speak to FrontPage Africa following the incident. Police Spokesman Moses Carter promised to call back, but up to press time, he failed to do so.

The adequate use of fire arms by national security personnel and the smooth application of the rule of law remain an aged old problem in Liberia.

Rule of law and misuse of fire arms

In July of this year, few officers of the LNP reportedly killed a truck driver identified as one Alieu Sheriff in the Gardnesville community, outside Monrovia.

Following the incident, the Ministry of Justice ordered the LNP to re-arrest and forward to court three of its officers that were assigned at the Zone 4 Police Depot after the autopsy of the late Sheriff, showed that his death was allegedly as a result of the brutality they meted on him.

Alexander Seakor, Co-Defendant Samuel Borbor And Thomas Sackor were arrested, investigated and charged with the commission of criminal facilitation and criminal negligent homicide, in violation of chapter 10.2, and chapter 14.3 of the revised penal law Liberia predicated upon a complaint filed by Sekou Kromah.

Up to present, nothing has been heard about the trial of the alleged doers despite series of protests which marred the incident.

In June 2020, James E. Domo, a police officer who shot and killed a woman in Paynesville, outside Monrovia was charged with murder and forwarded to court.

Police investigation established that Dumo “recklessly” caused the death of Mildred Kumba Tamba with his police service Smith and Wesson 9mm pistol during the early moring of June 27, 2020 while she was returning from a birthday party at the View Point Community.

According to the police investigation, Officer Dumo who also attended the party with his fiancée identified as Salamatu Kaba along with two others only identified as Randall and Dashekie were walking ahead of the deceased and her fiancé, Emmanuel Johnson, when they left the party at about 1AM.

Officer Domu then started beating his girlfriend while they were quarreling on their way home. Randall and Dashekie then tried to intervene and told him to stop abusing the lady in the street, but all their efforts fell on deaf ears. He further pushed her into a gutter near the main road in the View Point area.

After his girlfriend fell into the gutter, according to the police, he raised his service gun and fired a round, the bullet ricocheted when it hit the edge of the concrete side walk and penetrated the forehead the victim who was standing about eight feet away from Officer Domu.

On November 27, 2020, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Alexander Saye, was murdered.

Suspect Sampson Pennue, an agent of the National Security Agency (NSA), was charged in connection with the killing of the Deputy Grand Gedeh County Police Commissioner. He was reportedly released on bail for undisclosed reasons even though murder is a capital offense in Liberia.

Article 21(d) of the Constitution forbids those charged with capital offenses to be released on bail. It states, “All accused persons shall be bailable upon their personal recognizance or by sufficient sureties, depending upon the gravity of the charge, unless charged for capital offenses or grave offenses as defined by law.”

Prior to his demise, DCP Saye served as Company Commander of the Police Support Unit (PSU), Deputy Chief, Emergency Response Unit (ERU), Chief of Emergency Response Unit, Regional Commander, Montserrado Region (U-142), and lastly served as Regional Commander for Region Four (Grand Gedeh and Sinoe Counties).

He served the LNP for over 14 years as a tactically trained and disciplined riot control and senior commanding officer who served the Police Support Unit (PSU), the Emergency Response Unit (ERU) and the Patrol Division of the Liberia National Police.

Though Sampson Pennue was charged and sent to court by the police, it remains unclear whether or not he has been finally prosecuted in keeping with the laws of the country by the court.

In June 2019, a fatal shooting incident involving some officers of the LNP led to the 17-year-old Abraham Tumay during a protest demanding justice for the mysterious killing of two minors in May 2019.

Four police officers were charged with negligent homicide, aggravated assault, and criminal facilitation in connection with Tumay’s death. The officers allegedly fired live ammunition into the air in an attempt to disperse protesters, striking Tumay. The four officers were incarcerated at the Monrovia Central Prison awaiting trial. Up to present, the outcome of the case remains unknown.

The reckless taking away of citizens’ lives by law enforcement officers is becoming the order of the day under the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) led government of President George Manneh Weah.

When proper steps are not taken, the situation may exacerbate to the loss of additional lives and properties valued thousands of United States dollars.

It also has the proclivity of scaring away potential investors, especially at a time where these investors are either staying away or sitting on the fence watching to see whether or not the rule of law, peace and stability remain sustained or genuine would slip back to the old days after witnessing over a decade of civil war that led to the death of over 250,000 persons and properties worth millions of United States dollars in the post conflict nation.

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