Dead suspects photo fuels claims of police execution

Murang'a Robbers

Two of the suspected bank robbers subdued by police.

Photo credit: Courtesy | Mwangi Muiruri

What you need to know:

  • Young officers present retrieved their smartphones and started taking photos and videos of the subdued suspects.
  • The images showed the men seated handcuffed together and surrounded by dozens of armed officers.

Love of social media by youthful officers now risks the careers of their seniors in Murang’a.

What started as a noble cause of police pursuing gangsters who had on Saturday robbed a Unaitas Sacco branch in Kigumo town using a rifle they had stolen from a police officer in Muthithi on February 25 has now turned into a major embarrassment for the National Police Service.

Police accosted the four armed gangsters in Kinyona Forest on Sunday and managed to arrest two of them. Young officers present retrieved their smartphones and started taking photos and videos of the subdued suspects. The images showed the men seated handcuffed together and surrounded by dozens of armed officers.

They then shared the footage and photos on social media, clearly showing the two men while under arrest but with additional images of them sprawled dead, sparking speculation that the police had executed suspects who were already in custody.

Central regional police boss Lydia Ligami published a statement thanking “members of the public who gave us all the actionable information that led to the arrest of the two suspects”.

Addressing journalists later, she changed her statement and talked of how the suspects had engaged the police officers in a fiery exchange of fire.

“This led to the fatal injuries for the two suspects from whom we recovered two firearms and bullets that had been stolen from our officers, Sh1.14 million as part of the amount they had stolen on Saturday from Unaitas Sacco and we are pursuing the rest,” Ms Ligami said.

Preliminary investigations indicated that the bank could have lost between Sh3.5 million and Sh5 million.

Speaking to journalists on Saturday, Unaitas Sacco said the 9am security breach “where armed persons gained access to our Mununga branch banking hall after disarming police officers manning the facility lasted less than 10 minutes”.

Ms Ligami was flanked by, among others, Murang’a County police Commander Ali Nuno and County Commissioner Karuku Ngumo.

The Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) posted on social media that police officers shot the two dead after a fierce gunfight.

But hawk-eyed Netizens noticed the discrepancies in the photos.

“So the suspects were arrested first, disarmed and handcuffed. Then while surrounded by dozens of armed police officers, they managed to unchain themselves, retrieve their firearms from the officers and took positions to engage in a gunfight,” commented one user.

The DCI deleted the photos showing the suspects handcuffed.

The Independent Policing Oversight Authority contacted journalists requesting for information that could help them get a good understanding of the shooting.

Yesterday morning, officials at Harambee House called Ms Ligami demanding reports on the incident.

The officers involved in the operation were drawn from the DCI, National Police Service, National Government Administration Officers, National Intelligence Service.

The police chief said she put out a press statement on the strength of a briefing she received from Mr Nuno in whose jurisdiction the incident took place.

Mr Nuno said he was briefed by Kigumo Sub-county Police Commander Inviolata Lumati.

Collectively, through Ms Ligami, they all said: “We would like to be [judged on the basis of the] technical operations without the poisoning aspect that was introduced by our indisciplined officers who filmed their own operation and without any authorisation shared the images”.

Ms Ligami said investigations were on to find out the officers who took the photos. Kigumo MP Mr Joseph Munyoro said police officers were being targeted by criminals and tough decisions had to be made.

“We are faced with an emerging trend where our officers are beaten up and their guns snatched by criminals. The weapons are then used to terrorise the society,” he said.

The MP termed the situation a shame “and I have contacted security heads to express my displeasure at the turn of events”.

Mr Munyoro said the recent happenings in Kigumo are indicative of “major security gaps that need to be addressed urgently”.