Authorities at the Liberia National Police have arrested two eleventh (11) grade students of the Cyber-Ed Christian School of Excellence in Sophie Community, Congo Town, for allegedly shooting to death a 14-year-old girl with a 9-millimeter pistol.
The Cyber-Ed Christian School is owned and operated by Soni Williams, wife of T. Nelson Williams, Jr., former Managing Director of the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company (LPRC).
The victim, Precious Ireland, is the daughter of Dr. Philip Ireland, a physician at the John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital and survivor of the deadly Ebola virus in 2014.
The Suspect, Jovanus Oliver Turay, 16, is the prime suspect of the investigation and Matthew Gonkerwon, 17, a person of interest who is assisting the LNP with the investigation. They were both picked up from the school early Tuesday morning, April 13, by officers of the Emergency Response Unit (ERU).
“A student brought a handgun to school this morning,” Cyber-Ed Christian School said in a statement issued yesterday. “While a majority of the students were eating breakfast in designated locations, this student slipped away to show off the gun to a friend and it accidentally went off. Staff, emergency medical personnel, Police, and all responded quickly. Parents were informed of the emergency. Regrettably, the student did not survive the shooting.
“The gun was retrieved and the student is in the custody of Police. A full investigation is being undertaken by the Liberia National Police (LNP). We will meet with our parents to answer any questions and concerns they have. For the privacy of the students and their families, we are not releasing names at this time. We are currently in touch with grief counselors and therapists to assist us with comforting and help with guiding our student body through the grieving process. Please join us in prayer for the bereaved family whose daughter lost her life today,” the statement concluded.
LNP spokesman Moses Carter said police preliminary probe has shown that the school’s principal, Mr. Emmett Chapin was urgently called at 7:45 a.m. by one of his teachers upon hearing the shooting sound on the school campus.
Carter says Mr. Chapin recalled that some students saw the three students seated in one of the classrooms listening to music through an earpiece and suddenly they saw victim Precious lying unconsciously after a firing sound.
The parents of the main suspect, Josia Saah, and Sylvanus Turay, a movie producer (who now resides in the USA), have been cooperating to bringing their legal representations to extract statements from the suspected juveniles.
The Cyber-Ed Christian School administration said they are saddened beyond words to inform the parents that one of their students carried a gun on campus and shot another student.
Miss Ireland was later rushed to the SOS Clinic for medical attention but was pronounced dead on arrival by nurses on duty.
The Minister of Education, Prof. Ansu D. Sonii, described the deceased as a shining star that the nation has lost, adding that the dreadful situation was “difficult”. He called on the public be patient so as to allow the Ministry sufficient time in gathering more information on the matter.
He added that the MOE will now consider all possibilities moving forward, thus creating new measures which will safeguard the learning sector from future occurrence.
It remains unclear how and from where Jovanus Turay obtained the fire-arm, whether owned by his parent(s) or someone somewhere outside of the home. Turay, an avid freestyle rapper, is seen in two Facebook photos making hand gestures as if operating a gun. Another Facebook photo shows Turay and Precious Ireland in a side hug, suggesting that they might have been somewhat close friends, perhaps close enough for him to disclose the fact that he had obtained a firearm.
Meanwhile Dr. Philip Z. Ireland’s facebook page is inundated with dozens of condolence messages and demonstrations of love and support over the death of his 14-year-old daughter.
President Weah Distraught
President George M. Weah has expressed deep consternation of the unfortunate shooting incident at the Cyber-Ed Christian School in Monrovia, which resulted in the death of the daughter of renowned Liberian Doctor, Philip Zochonis Ireland – who was also a student of the school.
The President conveys his heartfelt sympathy to the bereaved family and all those impacted by the tragedy.
President Weah said no parent should be made to go through the sad reality of burying a child under such an “inconsolable” condition.
“My heart goes out to the grieving parents, family and friends, and I pray that they can take solace in the bosom of the Lord”, the President said.
The Liberian leader has mandated the LNP, the Ministries of Education, Gender, Youth and Sports, and other relevant agencies to work collaboratively with teacher unions, private and public school administrations to develop and present a plan on how to prevent this sad event from happening again in the future and also address the growing problem of rowdiness and violence in many schools.
Meanwhile, the Liberian National Police has announced the detention of a student who is reported to have snuck the firearm onto the school premises, leading to the killing of the female student.