Liberia: Police Investigate Lawrence Williams for Accident at Unity Party HQ

….The crash, according to witnesses, led to a chaotic scene, causing widespread panic and confusion and the burning of the vehicle in the process, with Williams allegedly escaping death by a hair's breadth.

The Liberia National Police have begun investigating Lawrence Williams, the alleged driver of a vehicle that killed three people at Unity Party headquarters on Broad Street and injured scores of others.

The accident, which took place between 10:00 and 10:30 p.m. on November 20, unfolded when Williams allegedly plowed his unmarked vehicle into jubilant crowds of supporters who had gathered at the Unity Party headquarters to support the victory of President-elect Joseph Boakai. 

The crash, according to witnesses, led to a chaotic scene, causing widespread panic and confusion and the burning of the vehicle in the process, with Williams allegedly escaping death by a hair's breadth.

“The public can be assured that this investigation will reach a logical conclusion where justice will be served,” police spokesman H. Moses Carter said.

 “The leadership of the joint security extends its deepest sympathy to the bereaved families of those who unfortunately lost their lives and keeps in prayer those of our citizens that are undergoing treatment,” he added.

Twenty-five people, according to Carter, were the victims of the accident, which has now resulted in three deaths, with the rest being treated for different forms of injuries at the John F. Kennedy Medical Center in Sinkor and the Mawah Clinic in Vai town.

Carter noted that while the police were still trying to establish the main cause of the accident, preliminary investigations have first established that Williams was the driver behind the vehicle when it plowed into Unity Party supporters and will make every other detail public as uncovered by the investigation.

‘Accident or Domestic Terrorist Attacks?’ 

However, the Unity Party, which in a month's time will be taking over the government, has labeled the accident as an act of domestic terrorism -- and not accidental as some people believe.

Lansana Fofana, the Party's Assistant Press Secretary for Publicity and media, in a statement, noted that Williams, the alleged suspect in the case, switched off the lights of his plate-less Hyundai vehicle before “willfully” striking the crowds at high speed. 

“Our thoughts and condolences go out to the families and friends affected by this devastating, wicked, and barbaric act of domestic terrorism, leading to the loss of precious lives,” Fofana said. 

“We urge the authorities to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation to determine the cause and hold those responsible accountable not only for the victims and their families but also for stability and respect for the rule of law in Liberia,” he added.

The release by Fofana, issued on behalf of the party, appeared to back the views of some of its supporters that Williams' alleged action was being sponsored by some officials within the outgoing Weah administration, even though there has been no evidence to prove such claims.

However, this view was rejected by Amara Konneh, Senator-elect of Gbapolu County and senior member of the Unity Party campaign. Konneh is of the view that the incident was purely accidental and not state-sponsored as some people may think.

“Greg Coleman, AB Kromah, and Sam Gaye interviewed the suspect, his wife, and the motorcyclist who took him to safety to avoid mob justice and later turned him in. This was an accident. Let’s pray for the victims,” Konneh said. 

Gregory Coleman is the former Inspector General of Police, while Abraham Kromah is his former Deputy and supporter of the Unity Party.

According to eyewitness accounts, Williams, who was driving a silver/gray Hyundai, had rammed into the crowds who were singing and dancing in the street in front of UP headquarters at high speed.

The Daily Observer has not been able to independently verify these eyewitness accounts. One of the eyewitnesses, who claimed to be a private security officer, told journalists that when Williams approached the crowd, he signaled to him to slow down, which he did, but in the process, turned off the headlights. 

However, Williams allegedly turned on the highlights in the process and rammed through the crowd with heavy speed, down the hill toward Randall Street, before stopping near the B.W. Harris Episcopal School, the security officer claims.

President-elect Boakai Visits Victims 

Meanwhile, President-elect Joseph Boakai and his wife visited some of the victims of the accident at the JKF hospital.

In a press release, the President-elect's office has sent condolences to the families of the dead and to those in the ward recovering, wishing them a speedy recovery.

According to the release, Boakai had “expressed deep sorrow for those injured in the accident and spoke with some family members at the hospital.”