Liberia: Police Officers Disrobed for ‘Shooting Unarmed Civilian to Death’

The Inspector General of the Liberia National Police (LNP), Col. Patrick Sudue has directed and the two officers involved in the shooting incident be disrobed.

— As authorities of the Liberian National Police kick off an investigation to determine whether the officers should be charged criminally or not.

The Liberia National Police has announced that it has stripped two of its officers for killing an unarmed civilian despite knowing he was unarmed.

The victim — identified by the police authorities as Rufus Fongbe — was shot in the head on June 13, in Kakata City, Margibi County, while escaping like others from the two police officers who had gone into his World Bank Community to effect an armed robber arrest.

Both officers have been disrobed by the LNP authorities — stripping them of police powers and subjecting them to face a disciplinary board whose investigation is necessary to determine whether to criminally charge them for the fatal shooting of Fongbe or acquit them.

And as the investigation begins, social justice advocates have joined the family to cry for justice – saying that the deceased was innocently killed and that the police officers involved were wrong to “unlawfully discharge their firearm among civilians” who posed no threat.

 “The Inspector-General of Police, Col. Patrick Sudue immediately directed and the two officers involved in the shooting incident have been disrobed and forwarded to the Professional Standards Division for prompt investigation,” Police spokesman Moses Carter said.  “The LNP administration assures of an impartial investigation in ensuring that anyone who bears the responsibility will face the full weight of the law.”

Carter added that the LNP will not shield any of its officers who are engaged in any unorthodox practices and that it condemns such acts and “will do all in its might to ensure that Justice is served the bereaved family.”

The two officers, according to eyewitnesses, were seen engaging in "tactical” pursuit of community dwellers after claiming that they suspected a criminal linked to an alleged burglary was being harbored in the Community.

In the process, a firearm was discharged leading to the death of Fongbe — a situation which resulted in violent protests against the unlawful use of force by police — ending with the ransacking of the Kakata police station and allegedly looting of properties.

“We were sitting here at the car wash when two policemen came and began running behind us; it was just at that time one of the officers discharged his firearm in the head of our friend,” FrontPageAfrica reports quoting eyewitnesses.

 Confirming the shooting, Carter said that a shooting incident took place when two of its officers had gone to effect the arrest of a suspected armed robber — subsequently leaving one person dead.

“Information gathered from our team headed by Deputy Inspector General of Police for Operations, Marvin Sarkor, [confirmed] a shooting incident took place when two officers had gone to effect the arrest of an armed robber. Accordingly, the shooting incident left one of our citizens in the person of Fongbeh dead,” Carter said.

The officers, according to eyewitnesses, after noticing that someone had been killed; immediately escaped the scene for fear of reprisal from the locals. However, that was too late, as protests took the streets against the police's use of deadly force — a scene that turned chaotic with the police station being ransacked and allegedly looted of office equipment.

The protesters had also taken the lifeless body of the deceased to the police station for display and planned to burn the Kakata Police station, but somehow failed to do so as a result of other protesters’ resistance.

Meanwhile, Carter said while the police would ensure Justice in the shooting incident that killed Fongbe, they condemned the action of some citizens who vandalized the Kakata police station, which served as headquarters of  Margibi County Police Detachment — making “away with several impounded motorbikes and personal properties of officers. Protesters also broke into vehicles impounded at the station.

“Today, the Liberia National Police charged to court 22 suspects who were allegedly involved in the vandalization and looting of the station. The police applauded those who stood on their ground and prevented the burning of the Police Station, terming such action as ‘good citizenship,” he added.

Elsewhere, Carter said the police have investigated, charged, and forwarded to court for prosecution a 28-year-old man identified as Mohammed Barry alias Agogo, for allegedly killing 24-year-old Annie K. Lymas.

Carter noted that during the police investigation, it was established that Barry allegedly hit his victim several times with his hand, which led to her death.

“Based on the purported regret of his action against the deceased, failing to report to state security until his arrest while escaping, and circumstances surrounding the death of victim Annie Lymas, coupled with the evidence adduced (victim’s body) as well as witnesses' accounts, suspect,” the police spokesman added. “Barry has been charged with the crime of murder, which is in violation of  Chapter 14, subchapter "A section 14.1 of the Penal Code of the Republic of Liberia and forwarded to court for prosecution.”