Nakuru killing: 'My daughter was not part of the dreaded criminal gang'
Whitney Atieno, 19, had intended to look all dolled up when she showed up at school today morning.
So, she decided to visit a salon that is located 10 metres from her home in Lake View estate in Nakuru city.
For the short trip, she tagged along 18-year-old Ruth Waithera, her classmate and best friend.
Nothing looked unusual until a commotion happened outside the salon and the two friends, like everyone else, decided to dash outside and quench their curiosity.
It turned out to be a fatal decision, at least for Whitney as trigger-happy police officers, ended her life and seriously injured Ruth.
The two had decided to witness a crackdown against the deadly Confirm gang in Nakuru by police officers when tragedy struck.
On Monday, transport was disrupted in several parts of Nakuru as residents of Lake View estate protested the shooting of the two high school students on Sunday evening.
The residents said the two learners were shot by police officers conducting a crackdown on the criminal gang known as ‘Confirm’ when they accosted Whitney and her friend Ruth as they left the salon.
The shooting led to the death of Whitney as she underwent treatment at the Nakuru Level 5 hospital, while Ruth, 18 is still nursing serious injuries at a Nakuru hospital.
Whitney’s foster mother, Rebecca Bulimo, said the teenager left home in the evening to a salon located just 10 metres from their home where she was to plait her hair in preparation for school.
She was in the company of her best friend Ruth.
While at the salon, Mrs Bulimo said, the girls were distracted by commotion outside and they went out to find out what was happening.
“The police were outside doing their patrols. Suddenly one police officer opened fire and shot Whitney and her friend injuring them. We took the two to hospital but unfortunately, Whitney succumbed,” she said.
She said that a friend called her while she was at home and informed her that her daughter –a Form 4 student at Nakuru Central Secondary School- had been shot.
"She was a bright student who was always focused on her education. What we want is just justice over her death," said Ms Bulimo.
A witness, Charles Sankale, said that on realizing that they had shot the two youngsters, the police officers boarded their Land Cruiser vehicle and attempted to leave, but a crowd that immediately formed at the scene carried the two girls and blocked the police vehicle from leaving.
“The officer who shot the girls then asked the families of the girls to fuel the car, if they needed help to transport the injured to hospital. But the crowd forced the officers to take the girls to hospital with the escort of a few residents,” Mr Sankale said.
Whitney’s distraught foster mother, Rebecca Bulimo said that the teenager left home in the evening to a salon located just 10 meters from their home where she was to plait her hair in preparation for school.
“I was later called by a neigbour who informed me that my daughter had been shot by the police,” Ms Bulimo said of the loss of the girl who was preparing to sit for her KCSE examinations.
Ms Bulimo who was yet to come to terms with the death of the girl, said that the Whitney’s biological mother had died many years ago when the girl was still young, and that she had taken up the responsibility of caring for her, and her other four siblings.
She said that the teenager was a joyful and humble girl who was dedicated to her studies and only wanted to do well in her education and later help her other siblings in future.
"The police have been harassing the youth here. We do not live peacefully. We close our businesses for the better parts of the days, as the police are always here, engaging youth in running battles and they just arrest even the innocent ones.
“Our youngsters no longer walk in pairs, lest they are labeled gangsters. We even wonder if the officers came to protect us or kill us,” said Ms Bulimo.
She said that all she wants is for the girl to get justice, and accused Bondeni OCS, Eric Wekesa of shooting the girls and causing the death of Whitney.
“The OCS who is responsible for the death should come out publicly and own it up, he is the one who did it surprisingly he even didn’t bother to take her to the hospital,” she added.
Whitney’s younger sister Rosalinda Apondi said that she was in the house going about her business when she heard gunshots from the road and dashed to the road to inquire what was happening, and to her shock, her sister was the one who had been shot.
“I saw her lying helplessly on the ground writhing in pain and bleeding profusely. I really pleaded to the police to take her to hospital and to my amazement, they asked me to fuel the car or look for a motorcycle or a taxi to take her to hospital,” she said amid tears.
She said that it took the intervention of one of the youth who picked her sister from the ground and ran towards the vehicle which had begun moving and stood in front blocking their way, they allowed the two to board, and drove to Bondeni Police station.
Ms Apondi said that she boarded a motorbike to Nakuru Teaching and Referral Hospital thinking that they went straight to the hospital but thirty minutes after her arrival at the facility the police vehicle arrived and Whitney was rushed to the emergency section.
“At the hospital, my sister kept assuring me that she was okay. I remember her last words so vividly before she died as I watched. She told me to greet my other siblings when I get home and tell them that she loves them,” the teenager said of the incident that triggered demonstrations in Nakuru.
“I have not had a wink of sleep since she died. She was supposed to attend her class by 6am but here we are mourning her,” said Ms Apondi.
The family now wants justice for their kin and have called on the police to conduct a thorough investigation and arrest the culprit.
Teresiah Wanjiku, Ruth’s mother said that although her daughter was in a stable condition she required surgery and was still traumatized by the events of the fateful day.
An eye witness who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of victimization said that the Bondeni Police Station Commanding Station Officer Mr Erick Wekesa pulled out the trigger leading to the death and injury.
They said that the police accosted the youth who were just playing cards near the salon, forcing them to scatter, leading to chaos.
They accused police of extortion, saying that the officers usually arrest them and ask them to buy their freedom with huge amounts of money.
“We have been living in peace but since this particular OCS was posted in the station we do not even sleep at night in fear of being arrested we just plead they stop the vice," said the resident
A resident Mr Joseph Muchemi who helped Ruth with first aid before taking her to a nearby chemist said that she went to his house screaming that she had been shot and requested him to wrap her hand to stop it from bleeding.
The Nakuru PGH Medical Superintendent Dr Aisha Maina said that Whitney was brought to the facility by police officers at around 6pm through the accident and emergency designated area having suffered gunshot wounds.
She said that after examination by the surgeons they noted that the entry point of the gunshot was the epigastric area just below the chest with an exit wound at the back.
She said that the patient was stabilized and was admitted at the facility but unfortunately succumbed to her injuries at 8pm as she was receiving fluid resuscitation.
Nakuru East Sub county acting police commander Mr Wilson Nduati, defended the police, saying that the officers from Bondeni Police station were on an operation to flush out the outlawed confirmed gang in the area when they were attacked by youths who were in a group forcing officers to shoot in the air to scare them away.
He said that the youths who were armed with crude weapons attacked the officers and wanted to stab an officer who was in charge of the operation after managing to arrest four of them while the rest ran away.
He said that they have launched investigations on the matter with the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) and Directorate of Criminal Investigation taking up the matter.
“The innocent girls were caught in between but we condole with the family for the unfortunate happening because as police officers we are supposed to maintain law and order and not killed the public, we have going on with our investigations and if the officer was found to have gone against law action will be taken against him,” said Mr Nduati.