The family of Paul S. Sonaka, a father of five, who died in jail at the Zone 8 depot of the Liberia National Police, has refuted claims by the police that their family member died by hanging.
In a press statement yesterday, the police said that the reports from its forensic Team that visited the scene show that “the deceased suspect died as the result of hanging. Preliminary findings were immediately provided to the family on the outcome of the forensic examination that was conducted on the remains of the deceased suspect.”
According to the Police, Sonaka was arrested at 1:30 a.m. on September 2, 2020, and taken to the Zone 8 Police Depot, Thinker’s Village, based on a complaint of Simple Assault and Menacing from his wife, Kebbeh Sonaka.
“Upon receipt of Mrs. Sonaka’s complaint, the deceased was arrested and turned over to the Women and Children Protection Section of the Liberia National Police. He was later detained so that investigation can commence at a later time,” the statement further noted.
Kebbeh Sonaka, the wife of the late 48 years-old Sonaka, said her husband’s death is not the result of hanging as the police claim but the result of maltreatment from them.
The mysterious death of Mr. Sonaka sparked serious tension yesterday, September 3, 2020, at the Zone 8 police station with an angry crowd demanding police authorities to be accountable for Sonaka’s death. The situation ended when officers of the Emergency Response Unit (ERU) dispersed the crowd.
Sonaka’s contact with the police came when commotions started between him and his wife over accusation of extramarital affairs on the part of Mrs. Sonaka — an exchange that resulted in the man beating his wife. According to Madam Sonaka, her husband had already gone to the police station before other members of the family including her can arrived
At the station, she said the police proceeded to investigate the case, after which, the police decided that the husband spend the night at the depot because of his anger. Though she disliked the idea and appealed against it, Madam Sonaka said, the police insisted that her husband should spend the night at the station because of his anger.
The next day, following the situation on Tuesday, Madam Sonaka said she went to the station around 6 a.m. to seek the release of her husband but the police refused and insisted on sending him to court.
“When I talked to them to release my husband so we can settle our problem [at] home, the police refused. They went to our house to take statements from people in the community and on their way back, they hurriedly got on a motorbike and left us behind as we decided to go along with them to the station,” she explained.
At the end of the day, Madam Sonaka said, the case never went to court, as promised by the police. Rather, it was the death news of her husband that surfaced.
Upon hearing about the death news, she said the family demanded to see the body in the cell but the police refused and told them the body of her late husband has already been taken to a funeral home without their knowledge and consent.
“The action by the police, raises more questions than answers,” Mrs. Sonaka continued. “This is why makes it difficult for us to believe their narrative that he died by hanging. If this was the case, they should have just left the body there for us to come and see it. But their action to hurriedly deposit my husband’s body in a funeral home without our knowledge and consent shows that foul play was committed somewhere. If they had nothing to hide, why then, the rush to carry his body to a funeral home. I do not trust their narrative today or tomorrow.”
Worst of all, she said, one of their sons, Gabriel Sonaka, has been arrested and is behind bars. As a family, they are even more concerned about the condition of their son in police custody, considering the circumstances surrounding the death of his father.
“Gabriel was arrested, beaten, and placed behind bars,” she explained. “The police in an effort to conceal circumstances surrounding the death of my husband have changed the location of two other detainees who were joined by Sonaka on the day he was incarcerated.”
The police statement noted that, after communicating the forensic team’s findings to the family, aggrieved family members and other residents gathered at the police station and began vandalizing — a situation which resulted in the arrests that were made.
“The Liberia National Police Zone 8 depot, Paynesville, has been massively vandalized by some angry residents of the community and family members of an alleged suicide victim, Paul Sackie Sonaka, 48 years old,” the Police statement said. However, the police statement failed to describe the “massive vandalism” suffered by the depot. A visit paid to the depot by the Daily Observer found the place calm and in tact.
“Unfortunately, after the family was communicated to on the outcome of our Forensic examination, some angry mobs stormed our Police station and vandalized it, thereby destroying the station’s infrastructure and injuring some civilian staff. A team of Emergency Response Unit (ERU) officers responded to the scene and brought the situation under control. Three of the violent protesters were arrested and are currently detained at the headquarters of the Liberia National Police while the investigation continues,” the police statement added.