Police in Kisumu have said that a popular bouncer whom they gunned down in Kondele in the wee hours of Thursday was a suspected criminal, even as the family cried foul over the dawn killing.
Mr Walter Odhiambo, popularly known as Walter Odhiz, was shot dead at 3am outside a nightclub where he had been drinking.
Kisumu Central Sub-County Police Commander James Ng'etich said the suspect, identified as Walter Odhiambo, was part of a five-member gang that was on a robbery mission targeting a premises in Kondele.
The police boss told the Nation that the 30-year-old man defied directives to surrender to officers who were patrolling the area.
"Our officers were tipped by the security guards who were manning the premises when the suspects, who were armed with machetes and knives, appeared," he said.
The OCPD said that the other suspects fled but the bouncer challenged the officers, confronting one of them with a knife.
"He fished out a knife when he was asked to surrender, forcing one of the officers to shoot and kill him," Mr Ng'etich said.
According to Kondele Police Station OCS Fredrick Kirui, his team was prompted to shoot after Mr Odhiambo resisted arrest and tried to stab one of them with a kitchen knife.
“The officer in question shot in the air, but this did not stop the suspect who kept moving towards him with a knife. He later shot him in defence,” said Mr Kirui.
The OCS claimed that prior to the attack, his officers had received a call from one of the residents who said there were three armed men at a club in Kondele.
On arrival, they went into the night club to try to arrest Mr Odhiambo but they didn't manage.
“He resisted arrest and more officers were called in. They later surrounded the club waiting for Odhiambo who left a few minutes later,” said Mr Kirui.
Two sharp knives
The OCS said that the police recovered two sharp knives from the pockets of the man who was pronounced dead on arrival at Jaramogi Oginga Teaching and Referral Hospital (JOOTRH).
But Mr Odhiambo’s family disputed the police account, claiming that their kin was a victim of extra-judicial killing.
His father, Mr John Odhiambo Oremo, demanded justice for his son as he appealed to the Independent Policing Oversight Authority to probe the shooting.
"Why did the police deem it fit to fatally shoot my son instead of immobilising him? We need justice so that we know the motive behind this action by the trigger-happy officer," he said.
According to the father, a physical examination indicated that Mr Odhiambo had three gunshot wounds, two in the chest while one scratched his forehead.
His uncle, identified as Steven Ochieng, said he was with him on Wednesday night.
"We were with him when I visited the family in Manyatta estate at around 10pm. He said he was not feeling well and opted to stay at his parents' house," he said.
The uncle also claimed that one of Mr Odhiambo’s neighbours informed them that an unidentified man, believed to be a police officer or informer, had been visiting the house at night.
"The suspicious man visited four times, each time knocking at the door to establish if the owner was around," he said.
According to the father, besides working as a bouncer in one of the night clubs in Kondele, Mr Odhiambo was also a tout at the main bus terminus.
But in Manyatta where he was staying, residents were celebrating the police action, saying they were relieved that one of the people who has been terrorising them had been taken out.
"Odhiambo is in a gang of three people who have been reigning terror on us. At least we shall breathe now, hoping the other two will go away," said a resident of Manyatta.
However, some human rights activists have taken up issue with how Mr Odhiambo was executed by the police.
Mr Boniface Ogutu Akach, a Kisumu-based human rights defender, said police should not have shot him despite surrendering.
He claimed that Mr Odhiambo had been involved in a slight conflict with the police but was willing to be arrested.
“Witnesses say that he had gone on his knees begging to be forgiven. However, the officers went ahead to shoot him,” he said.
Mr Akach argued that for a long time, the youth in Kisumu have been branded as non-law abiding citizens, a notion that has to change.
“We are demanding for investigations into the circumstances surrounding the death of Odhiambo. We will not stop until we receive justice,” said Mr Akach.