Liberia: ‘Nelson Freeman Did Not Shoot to Kill CDC Partisans’

Deputy Inspector General of Police, Atty. Freeman 

–investigative report reveals

The Special Independent Commission of Inquiry (SICI) investigative report revealed that the November 7, 2011 shooting at the headquarters of the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) shows that recently nominated Deputy Inspector General of Police, Atty. J. Nelson Freeman, did not shoot to kill anyone during that riot, contrary to reports that he was responsible for the killing that took place.

Moments after the nomination of Atty. Freeman by President Joseph Nyuma Boakai, CDC’s National Vice Chairman for Political Affairs, Acarous Moses Gray, raised a red flag on his Facebook page, alleging that Boakai deliberately appointed the man who shot and killed members of their party on November 7, 2011 at the headquarters.

“President Boakai intentionally appointed a death squad killer of CDCians. November 7, 2011 Nelson Freeman shot and killed three CDCians and wounded several. This appointment is a repeat of November 7, 2011 when Boakai was Vice President,” Gray posted to Facebook.

However, the Special Independent Commission of Inquiry Reports reviewed by the independent review panel comprising Victor E. Helb, Chairman, Atty. Edwin Barquoi, CFE, member, and Cecil B. Griffiths, member, found that Freeman, a Deputy Commissioner of Police at the time, entered the CDC Compound during the rioting and became involved in an altercation with UNMIL officers, who attempted to disarm him. 

In response, Freeman discharged his service weapon, purportedly in a bid to resist disarmament. When questioned about his actions, Freeman cited fear for his safety, stating that he believed his disarmament would have exposed him to greater danger within the CDC headquarters compound.

The independent review panel concluded that Freeman’s discharge of his firearm constitutes a violation of the LNP Firearm Policy. However, they stopped short of labeling his actions as criminal. They emphasized that Freeman’s weapon was not aimed at civilians or UNMIL personnel but was directed towards the ground, and no injuries were reported as a result.

According to the report, this conclusion came after a thorough examination of the circumstances surrounding the incident, taking into account all available evidence and testimonies.

On November 7, 2011, a large gathering of supporters of the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) convened at various spots in and around Monrovia, including their main headquarters, in response to a call from the party leadership. They were rallying in solidarity with a planned boycott of the November 8, 2011 Presidential run-off election between incumbent presidential candidate, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of the Unity Party (UP) and George Manneh Weah of the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC).

The CDC supporters occupied sections of Tubman Boulevard, erecting roadblocks and barricades to impede traffic flow, particularly towards the Catholic Hospital Junction. Negotiations to persuade the demonstrators to disperse failed, leading to clashes with the Police Support Unit (PSU) who resorted to tear gas when some protesters attempted to breach the barricades.

The situation escalated into violence as protesters threw projectiles at the police, resulting in damage to government vehicles, UNMIL assets, private property, and injuries to several individuals, including police officers and protesters. To restore order, the Police Emergency Response Unit (ERU) was deployed, and live ammunition was fired by the Liberia National Police. Tragically, one person was killed, and many others were wounded, with numerous arrests made. 

In response, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf established a Special Independent Commission of Inquiry (SICI) to investigate the events of November 7, 2011, and the underlying causes of the violence. Two reports were subsequently issued by the Commission, the first on November 25, 2011, and a supplementary report on March 8, 2012.